It’s going to be the key to success.
The goalkeeper position likely will determine how far the East Central College Falcons go this season.
Head Coach Jay Mehrhoff reported there currently are two candidates, both local high school graduates, for the position.
Union’s Riley Nagle has been taking the repetitions in practice so far as Washington graduate Ottmar Escalante has not been able to make it back from San Diego yet.
Both of last year’s goalkeepers are gone.
Lewis Brass was a sophomore and he signed with Conneh’s Quay Nomads FC in the Welsh Cymru Premier League.
Brass drew praise as the team, a semi-professional club, shocked Scottish Premier League team Kilmarnock in the Europa League First Qualifying Round, 3-2 on aggregate.
The team lost in the second round to Partizan (Belgrade, Serbia), 4-0..
The backup, Gregorio Gros Jacques (Eugenia Bona, Biella, Italy) did not return. He started several games in the middle of the season last year.
While early practices have shown favorites to start at other positions, the goalkeeping position is an area of concern with only one candidate in camp so far.
Mehrhoff is hopeful someone can emerge there to give security in net.
Things are looking a bit more secure in front of goal.
Mehrhoff has been pleased with the defense, which currently is being headed by Liam Durran (Pobalscoil Neasain, Dublin, Ireland), Gary Dunne (St. Peters, Dunboyne, Ireland) Guy Baskerville (Ravensbourne, London, England) and Sam Marchi (Deptford Green, London, England)
“The back four look very good,” Mehrhoff said. “Liam Durran, Gary Dunne, Guy Baskerville and Sam Marchi will be able to shut down a lot of teams.”
Dunne was an All-NJCAA Division Region 16 selection last season.
Perhaps the deepest area at this time is the midfield.
“The midfield has a lot of competition for four spots,” Mehrhoff said. “Bright spots include incoming freshmen Blake Little, Cayden Schall and Jacob Buhr along with returning sophomores Dashaun Morris, Leonard Sowa and Gabriel Pires.”
Little, from Belleville East, spent last year as a redshirt at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. He also has played for the Saint Louis FC Academy team.
Schall and Buhr are St. Francis Borgia Regional graduates who are pressing for playing time after helping the Knights reach the district title game last fall.
Dashaun Morris (Coral Glades, Coral Springs, Fla.) is a returner and the lone Florida player this year.
Sowa (Rudolf-Virchow Oberschule, Berlin, Germany) was an all-region second-team selection last fall.
Pires is a sophomore from Centro Educacional Charles Darwin, Vitorio, Brazil.
At the forward position, the team returns its top striker, Arman Kovac (Lindbergh). The all-region second-team selection scored eight goals with six assists. Another forward, Stephen Akot (Ichthus, Dronten, Netherlands) is expected this week and Mehrhoff is looking forward to seeing the two work together.
“Arman Kovac looks to be in good form in front of the net,” Mehrhoff said. “I am excited to see how he combines with Stephen Akot coming this week from the Netherlands.”
The team took Wednesday morning off after several two-a-day practices in the heat. The team practiced once Thursday and will resume two-a-day practices Friday. There is no practice Saturday as it’s new student orientation day.
The players aren’t the only ones being prepared for the season. The home pitch has received a lot of work to make it playable.
“The field is coming together after a rough winter and spring,” Mehrhoff said. “I spent some time two weeks ago sprigging the bare spots with Bermuda and they are taking and filling in well on the field. We are only two weeks away for the first home game Aug. 22 (Missouri Baptist JV).”
The first time the Falcons will face a different program is Aug. 13 at Harris-Stowe State University. That event will start at 6 p.m.
Mehrhoff reported the team is looking for a second preseason scrimmage after it’s event with Saint Louis Football Club Aug. 17 has been called off. It’s likely the second preseason scrimmage now will be played at a new complex in Eureka also Aug. 17. Final details are still being worked out.