Losing Steven Emory did not seem to drastically affect the Metro men’s soccer team at the start of 2011, but they showed signs that there’s more work to be done.
Emory, the 2009 and 2010 conference player of the year, was Metro’s go-to scorer last season with 17 goals. He’s now with the Colorado Rapids.
Despite not having a player of that caliber for the time being, the Roadrunners defeated Western Nebraska Community College 2-1 Aug. 19 and settled for a 1-1 tie against Nebraska’s Hastings College Aug. 20 in exhibition play to start the new campaign.
“Preseason games are always an opportunity to find the right chemistry with players,” head coach Ken Parsons said. “I don’t think we had the wide number of contributions from a wider number of players. You’re not going to do everything perfectly. The finishing is going to come over the course of the year.”
Against WNCC, Metro was sluggish right out of the gate, struggling with ball control and failing to dominate the number of touches.
“I thought there were bad decisions, as far as our distribution goes,” Parsons said. “We were giving too-difficult balls to try and settle down. It was one of those games where the quality was right, but the decision-making was wrong.”
On top of that, Metro had numerous opportunities to score early on, but failed to do so.
This resulted in frustration on the field, where the game became physical, to the point of pushing and shoving.
Senior forward Scott Grode, who was named to the 2011 first-team preseason All-RMAC squad, was among those who seemed frustrated with what was transpiring on the field.
“(Opponents) try and get in your head,” Grode said. “It’s all part of the game. You’ve just got to man up and take charge.”
WNCC’s Manolo Garcia-Oronoz scored the first goal of the contest at 36:32.
Grode later responded with the equalizer at 29:50 to tie the game at one. Then, with 22.2 seconds remaining, junior forward Marc Herschberger came through in the clutch with the game-winning goal.
“We started off pretty slow and sluggish,” Grode said. “I was proud of the way we fought through and got the result.”
The next day against Hastings, who won the 2010 National Association of Collegiate Athletes men’s soccer title, Metro was much more aggressive and composed on the field.
However, there was tension on the field once again, as HC junior midfielder Nate Polak and Metro junior defender Jeremy Brooks each picked up yellow cards.
At the 4:04 mark in the first half, the Runners took a 1-0 lead. The Broncos hit a header into their own net while trying to send the ball the opposite way.
HC later compensated with 16:25 remaining in regulation with a free kick goal by Polak.
Later on, the Roadrunners got into a tough position, as the Broncos had a chance to take the lead on a penalty kick.
However, at 11:44, junior goalkeeper Issa Bissau made a key save, ultimately saving the game for Metro.
“I had to make up for it. I caused the penalty,” Bissau said. “Fortunately, I was able to read where (the ball) was going and make the save.”
The game concluded in a 1-1 draw. Going forward, Coach Parsons believes his team has the potential for success.
“I thought that we competed well,” Parsons said. “We’ll just work on some things that we need to clean up. I know what they’re capable of, what the standard should look like. They just executed much better [against Hastings]. I think we still have some questions, but they’re good questions. We have four midfielders that did very well. We have to make a decision on who’s going to give us the better option.”
Metro will participate in the 2011 alumni game Aug. 27, matching current players up against former players. They’ll continue to try and build momentum against Colorado College the following afternoon in Colorado Springs.
“Being able to rely on not just one person, but an entire team, is good. It makes us better, it makes us a lot more dangerous,” Bissau said. “If we’re able to have teams not key in on one player, [and] if we’re able to spread the wealth, so to speak, have everyone contribute, that’s a lot better for us.”