The 2017 UCF men’s soccer season is quickly approaching, and with the recent release of the Knights’ fall schedule, it looks as though they will be tested right from the start.
Last fall, the Knights struggled with a 5-11 overall record and a 3-5 record in conference play. The team particularly had trouble on the road, unable to tally a win off their home field last season. Despite trouble on the road, UCF was still able to make it to the American Athletic Conference (AAC) tournament, but eventually fell to I-4 rival USF in the semi-finals.
This season however, it’s almost expected for the Knights to come out with a different game plan. Last fall, UCF Vice President and Director of Athletics Danny White, brought in Scott Calabrese as the new head coach for the Black and Gold.
Calabrese is coming to UCF from FIU, where he spent the last three seasons redeveloping its program. As a coach, he has three NCAA Tournament appearances and has coached a number of top-25 schools including, North Carolina and Clemson.
Calabrese will not be the only newcomer on the Knight’s staff as Paul Souders joins the men’s soccer program as a new assistant coach as well. Souders was a former player of Calabrese at Clemson University, and is joining the Knights after spending the last nine seasons with New Mexico.
Although there are a number of changes to the Knight’s staff, there are a few changes to their roster, with 13 players returning this season. AAC player of the year Matias Pyysalo is returning for his senior season in black and gold, and will certainly be a player to watch. Pyysalo led the Knights last season in both goals and assists with 10 and five.
The Knights kick off their 2017 play with two home exhibition matches against Tampa and Georgia Southern early this August. They open regular season play on the road against powerhouse Duke at the John Rennie Nike Invitational Tournament August 25.
Kicking off their home schedule Sept. 1, the Knights go head to head with Charlotte. The next home game, Sept. 12, should be an exciting one as UCF takes on Calabrese’s former team and in-state rival, FIU.
With three conference games, including Memphis, Tulsa and Temple all at the UCF Soccer Complex this season, the Knights will look to capitalize on these important conference games.
The War on I-4 rivalry series game will be held at USF this year Sept. 19. Last season, the Knights fell to USF both times they faced off, so they’ll certainly be hungry for a win this fall.
The last regular season game is set for Nov. 4 at Cincinnati. The top four teams in the final conference standings will advance to the AAC Championship series. The two semifinal matches are set for Nov. 10, while the championship kicks off Nov. 12 at noon on ESPNU.