Soccer team looks to translate preseason success into win Saturday

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Soccer team looks to translate preseason success into win Saturday

By Mark Powell / Staff Writer

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Awoken from their offensive slumbers last year, Pitt men’s soccer had a successful preseason and begins their regular season campaign Saturday against Presbyterian College.

The Panthers played three preseason exhibitions in total, winning two games after losing the first to Saint Francis.

Coach Joe Luxbacher leads Pitt in his 31st season against a Presbyterian team coming off of an unsuccessful 3-15 campaign last year. Still, he warns that this contest could be a textbook trap game for the Panthers.

“We have a good group of guys and compete at every position,” Luxbacher said. “But we have to bring it out on the field.”

Presbyterian is a member of the Big South conference, which has had moderately successful programs such as High Point — a team Pitt plays later this season.

Pitt hit its stride in the last exhibition against Duquesne, in which they won 2-0 in a complete, all-around effort. The Panthers registered nine shots on goal and limited Duquesne to only three opportunities.

The most obvious change in Pitt’s style of play from last season is a new reliance on possession.

Although they might have to counterattack against tougher ACC competition, the Panthers showcased their ability to out-possess and outplay inferior opponents during the exhibitions, which should give them confidence in the early stages of the regular season.

“We’ve had a change in team philosophy this year to try and possess the ball more,” Ryan Myers, redshirt junior defensive midfielder, said.

The Panthers looked equally as strong defensively this preseason, recording two clean sheets against California University (Pa.) and Duquesne. Goalkeepers Dan Lynd and Braden Horton were not truly tested in net during those games, as Pitt’s back line remained strong against limited adversity.

Pitt’s experience and depth could be one of their strengths this year, as they bring back 11 players who have played in six or more collegiate games.

“Most of the core guys are back,” Myers said. “The depth in the squad is higher than it’s been in years.”

Along with Pitt’s returning starters, the Panthers also add a recruiting class with the potential to add the creativity lacking last season.

Freshmen Kevin Angulo and Raj Kahlon, both from Canada, combined for three of Pitt’s five goals in the exhibition season. Although Pitt’s incoming class may not get playing time right away, there is a good chance they will make an impact by season’s end.

Joining Angulo and Kahlon, junior transfer Patrick Dixon could make an early impact on the Panthers’ front line. Dixon, a transfer from Australia, expects to contribute a lot to the offense, possibly as early as Saturday.

“I think I’ll add some creativity on the wing,” Dixon said. “We’ve been trying to get more balls to the wing and on goal.”

Pitt’s success in exhibitions should boost its confidence for the season opener, as there isn’t a big jump in the level of competition.

Although Presbyterian won their last exhibition game 3-1 against Erskine, Pitt will be favored to win their first home opener since 2011.

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