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Philadelphia D1 college teams struggling out of the gate

Half of Philadelphia’s six division 1 men’s teams are winless entering the third week of the season

The first two weeks of the college soccer season have not been kind to Philadelphia.

Three of the six Division 1 programs in the city (counting Villanova) enter the third week of the season without a win and St. Joseph’s University is the only school with a winning record.

Part of that can be chalked up to tough scheduling - two of Villanova’s three losses were on the road at Virginia and Loyola Maryland; La Salle dropped two games over a weekend in Chicago and Drexel opened the season against St. John’s and still unbeaten Bowling Green.

But if you were counting on local college soccer to distract you from the woes of the Philadelphia Union, the early returns have not been super encouraging.

Drexel did manage a scoreless draw on Saturday to Colonial Athletic Association favorites William & Mary after back-to-back 3-0 losses to start the year. Senior goalkeeper Jacob Jordan had seven saves to record the clean sheet in the game but they now face the difficult task of traveling to Seattle for a pair of games this weekend against two strong programs in Washington and Seattle.

Matt Ralph, Neil Boyal

The trip will be a homecoming for freshman midfielder Neil Boyal, a Seattle Sounders Academy alum who is fresh off being chosen Philly Soccer 6 rookie of the week.

That the Dragons have yet to find the back of the net should be a concern after they scored just seven times in a one-win season in 2016.

Defense has been the bigger issue for La Salle, which has surrendered a dozen goals in four straight losses to start the year.

They have seven goals of their own - fifth-year midfielder Matt Robinson leads the team with two goals and two assists - but the defense will need to improve as they return home for a five-game home stand starting Wednesday night against Saint Peter’s.

Penn has only one goal in three losses - that from Joe Swenson in a 2-1 loss Sunday night at home to Seton Hall - but they too have opened with a strong schedule, losing 2-0 in back-to-back games against Monmouth and Bowling Green.

The Quakers will host Lehigh on Thursday and SIU Edwardsville on Sunday evening at Rhodes Field.

At 1-3-1, Temple’s struggles are not a complete surprise considering what they lost from last year’s team, but three goals in five games isn’t going to win many games.

After some mental lapses in a 3-1 loss to St. Joe’s to open the season, the defense has been solid, allowing just two goals over a three-game stretch with a win and draw on the road at Villanova and Delaware. The defense was strong too for most of the game in a 2-0 loss to St. John’s in Queens on Saturday until a 70th minute penalty gave the Red Storm a lead they doubled four minutes later.

Newcomer Thibault Candia looked poised to open his Temple scoring account in the match, but finding goals without Jorge Gomez Sanchez on the team - and most of the attention from the defense now being paid to senior Joonas Jokinen - will continue to be the key to the Owls turning their season around.

There’s no reason to panic yet for Villanova, but a win on the road at Rider on Wednesday is vital to get back to .500 heading into their Big East opener at home against Marquette Saturday afternoon.

The Wildcats fell on an 82nd minute goal at Loyola Maryland on Saturday - their second 1-0 loss of the season that might come back to haunt them in November - but as they showed in a gritty 2-1 overtime win against Delaware last Wednesday, they aren’t going to be an easy out for anyone, Big East competition included.

Greg O’Connell
St. Joseph’s Athletics / Sideline Photos, LLC

St. Joseph’s has been the lone exception to the story line of struggle for the Philly Soccer Six.

The Hawks have been flying high since beating Temple 3-1 behind a Matt Crawford hat trick on opening night. Crawford leads the team and is on the national scoring charts with five and their only letdown was a 1-0 loss in a stadium opener at Quinnipiac.

Senior goalkeeper Greg O’Connell and sophomore Matt Mullock were the heroes in a 2-1 overtime win over Manhattan on Wednesday. O’Connell connected with Mullock on a long ball for the golden goal in overtime. He then had seven saves in a scoreless draw at VMI on Saturday.

Mullock shared the Philly Soccer 6 co-player of the week award with Villanova fifth-year forward Max Kroschwitz, who scored the game-winning penalty to beat Delaware. O’Connell was the defensive player of the week. Freshman defender Daniel Morales was also awarded for his play last week with an Atlantic 10 rookie of the week honor.

The Hawks (2-1-2) travel to Connecticut again tomorrow for a 4 p.m. game against Sacred Heart.