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Howard men’s soccer looks to use winless start to fuel comeback

The Howard University men’s soccer team began the 2023 season with several hardships, including player injuries and tough competition, but hope to make meaningful adjustments to secure a win, according to team players.

Midfielder Roy Henderson swaps with his teammate forward Onarae Rice as the coach changes his call. (Tionne Thornton/ The Hilltop)

The men’s soccer team at Howard University has recently started their season with three out-of-conference games with a record of 0-3. 

The past three games tested the team as they were put against high-achieving opponents early into the season. In the 2022 season, the Bison had a record of 2-11-2. This is not the outcome the team hoped for, according to team captain Roy Henderson, but was the result of many factors including several injuries. 

Henderson, a midfielder and graduate student from Fredericksburg, Virginia, expressed that the previous season was a letdown because of injuries that accumulated at the beginning of the season, including his own. “[I] had a season-ending injury the first game of the season last year, so that was a big mental hit for myself,” he said.

The 2023 season started with three away games against the University of Pittsburgh, popularly known as Pitt, the United States Naval Academy and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. These opponents were tough, especially Pitt, according to Henderson, as the team is currently ranked as the NCAA’s seventh collegiate soccer team in the country. 

Again, the Bison found themselves unable to start their season at full strength because of players being injured. “We have our two wingers Bryson and Nathan [who] are hurt still from the spring,” explained Benjamin Hoesli, a goalkeeper and senior computer science major from Bern, Switzerland. 

Hoesli elaborated on the importance of Bryson Baker and Nathan Leggett, both playing as forwards, adding, “In the attacking phases sometimes our striker up top is a little lost if the two wingers are not supporting him. So once those two players are back, we’re going to have more speed up top to score more goals.”

Outside of health, the team defense displays aggressiveness, which contributes to some positive plays, and leads to fouling taking place in their half of the field. When the Bison foul their opponents in their own half, it results in a free kick. During this free kick, the opponents’ defenders, mid-fielders and forwards become able to scatter themselves accordingly increasing the likelihood of the opposing team scoring a goal.

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Phillip Gyau, the head coach of the men’s soccer team, detailed the vulnerable state the team is put in when their opponent receives a free kick. “You got some players that are specialists in terms of whipping balls in the box. That’s all they practice. They practice those things on a daily basis,” he explained.

An adjustment that is being implemented is the movement of players to other positions on the field as well as a different approach to analyzing games in order to spot the issues before they become unbreakable habits.

Hoesli detailed Henderson’s position change from a defensive player to an offensive player in order to make up for the players currently missing. “Our captain Roy first started as a center back and now moved to the striker position,” he said.

The Bison have hopes of attending their conference tournament and are reportedly making progress in the right direction with the adjustments that have been made after these past games. “You never like losing but you can learn from it,” Hoesli concluded.

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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