UB men's soccer looks to form a new identity

Buffalo prepares for Detroit and Duquesne this weekend

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After a disappointing 3-11-4 record in 2013, the men’s soccer team entered this season looking for improvement. It’s still searching after six games. Buffalo has only one win and six goals this season.

Head coach Stu Riddle believes the team still has an opportunity to correct its mistakes and contend this season.

“We were looking for improvement from last season and we still have time to do that, especially once it comes conference time,” Riddle said. “So the expectation is to still have improvement on the season. I have no doubt we’re going to get that.”

The Bulls (1-5) host Detroit (2-2-1) Friday at UB Stadium and travel to Duquesne (3-1-2) Sunday.

Buffalo dropped both of its games last weekend, but sophomore midfielder Russell Cicerone believes the team is on its way to improving.

“We played really well this past weekend,” Cicerone said. “We made an identity for ourselves.”

The Bulls have seven freshmen on the roster including several who experienced significant playing time, including midfielder Abdulla Al-Kalisy, defenders Fox Slotemaker and David Enstrom and goalkeeper Cameron Hogg.

Junior forward Marcus Hanson, a team captain, is optimistic the young squad can jell together.

“We’re working hard to figure each other out,” Hanson said. “We’ll see the chemistry more as the season goes on.”

The Bulls have only three seniors and three juniors on their 24-man roster. Two of the Bulls’ promising young players are currently dealing with injuries.

Sophomore defender Alec Fisher will miss the next 3-4 weeks with an ankle injury. Sophomore midfielder Nicolai Berry, who was second on the team in goals and points last season, has been cycled in and out of the lineup. Berry had a late start to training due to a thigh strain and back injury.

Riddle hopes to slowly move him back into a starting role as he recuperates. Berry still leads the team with two assists despite his delayed start.

In addition to managing Berry’s minutes, Riddle has also been switching between his two goalkeepers. Senior Waleed Cassis has started four games, while Hogg has two starts.

“They both have excellent attributes and if we could get the combination of both right now we’d have a wonderful top-class goalkeeper,” Riddle said. “So I think there’s areas they can both work on but areas of their game they’re doing exceptionally well.”

Riddle said he listens to Buffalo goalkeepers coach Cody Camp about who should start in net for a particular game. He said Camp’s decisions are based on which goalkeeper does best in practice. Riddle hopes to have a solidified 11 players for a starting roster once Mid-American Conference play begins on Oct. 10.

Riddle is eager to adjust his team’s performance this weekend, saying “rather than focusing on our opponents, we’re focusing becoming more clinical in the final third of the game.”

He hopes this will result in an increase of goals, which the Bulls have been lacking thus far.

Cicerone leads the team with three goals. One of those goals was from midfield in double overtime that clinched the Bulls’ lone win of the season, 3-2 over Bryant (2-4). The play made No. 2 on SportsCenter Top-10 plays.

The midfielder said he would not have taken the shot if Riddle didn’t tell him to. The wind at his back and the possibility of the game being called off due to lightning factored into the decision to shoot from midfield.

Cicerone threw off his shirt in celebration and was swarmed by his teammates after the goal.

“It was pure joy,” Cicerone said. “It’s why we play the games, for moments like that.”

Last season, Cicerone led the team in goals, points and shots as a freshman. He believes the team has a variety of players who can complement him this season.

“We have all kinds of attacking firepower and it’s going to come out soon,” Cicerone said.

Riddle said Buffalo’s final four games before MAC play begins are important.

The players are confident in each other. Cicerone said that he is watching the chemistry grow exponentially.

“We’re just going to go up from here,” Hanson said,

The Bulls host Detroit at UB Stadium Friday at 7 p.m.

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