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No. 5 Men's Soccer to meet No. 4 Mountaineers in First Top Five Matchup in Program History

by Ryan Ladika
Watch ESPN+ Live Stats Match Notes

ORLANDO – Boasting a five-match unbeaten streak to begin the fall 2023 campaign and a share of the highest national ranking in program history, the No. 5 UCF men’s soccer team couldn’t have asked for a better start to its debut season in the Sun Belt.

The Knights (4-0-1) emerged victorious in four of their five non-conference matches, upsetting then-No. 4/9 Clemson on the road as an unranked team to begin the season before also toppling Stetson, NC State and Brown. UCF was unable to hold an early lead against then-No. 11 Florida International Sept. 5 but still managed a 2-2 draw in its second match against a top 15 opponent this year.

With the start of conference play quickly approaching, the Knights will draw two of their most challenging scheduled matchups in their next two games, beginning with the No. 4 West Virginia Mountaineers (5-0-0) Friday evening before a date with No. 2 Marshall on the road Sept. 23.

As UCF concludes its five-match homestand, its home tilt with West Virginia will represent the first top five matchup in UCF men’s soccer program history. While the Knights have produced a 1-0-1 record against ranked opponents thus far, the Mountaineers are fresh off a 1-0 upset win of their own against then-No. 3 Portland Saturday night, a win that aided the team in rocketing into the top five after being ranked No. 16 in the United Soccer Coaches’ week two poll.

Against West Virginia, the Knights will look to continue leaning on a balanced offensive scheme and a stifling defense, a combination that has paid dividends through the early part of the team’s 2023 campaign. Seven different goal-scorers have accounted for UCF’s 11 total goals, including a trio of multi-goal scorers in Lucca Dourado (3), Saku Heiskanen (2) and Emmanuel Bam (2).

The team’s early prowess on the attacking end has led to an offensive unit that ranks third in the Sun Belt and 22nd in the nation in goals per game (2.20), as well as third in the conference and 29th in the country in total goals (11).

Bam’s two goals have also both been of the game-winning variety, placing the sophomore forward tied for second in the Sun Belt and tied for sixth in the nation in the category. Dourado’s three total goals, meanwhile, place the veteran forward in the top 50 in the nation as well, holding down a share of 46th in the country and sixth in the conference.

On the other end, UCF has yielded one or fewer goals in four of its first five matches this season, with the lone exception being the team’s 2-2 draw with Florida International. The Knights most recently authored their first clean sheet of the year against Brown Sept. 9, marking sophomore goalkeeper Juanvi Muñoz’s third career shutout.

The Valencia, Spain, native has played each of the team’s 450 minutes between the goalposts to this point, producing a 1.000 goals-against average and a .773 save percentage that both surpass his respective 1.462 and .716 marks from his freshman season a year ago.

Muñoz also ranks sixth in the Sun Belt in goals-against average, save percentage, saves per game (3.40) and total saves (17). He has been aided by a backline led by fifth-year defender Zane Bubb, who was honored with Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week Sept. 5, representing the first Knight in program history to earn a Sun Belt Conference weekly award.

The Knights will meet a Mountaineers squad that boasts among the best defensive schemes in the country. Four of the team’s five wins have come via shutout, and the group yielded only one goal in its five non-conference matchups.

West Virginia, picked to finish third in the Sun Belt preseason poll, paces the Sun Belt in save percentage with a mark of .900 that also ranks fourth-best in the nation, and it also leads the conference in shutout percentage (.800, 3rd nationally) and team goals-against average (.200, 3rd). The team through its five matches has also yielded an average of only two shots on goal per game, and against then-No. 3 Portland Sept. 9 allowed just one.

Starting netminder Jackson Lee has been between the goalposts for each match, making a total of nine saves in his five wins, including his four clean sheets. The senior made a season-high five saves in his season debut against California Baptist Aug. 24, and has made a total of four saves on five shots on goal-against in West Virginia’s four matches since.

In accompaniment of the team’s dominant defense is an offensive corps led by one of the more prolific goal-scorers in the nation in sophomore forward Marcus Caldeira. The Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, native’s six goals rank fourth-most in the nation, as well as second-most in the Sun Belt, and on average scores more than anyone in the conference with a Sun Belt-leading 1.20 goals per game.


Follow UCF men's soccer on X (@UCF_MSoccer), Instagram (@UCF.MSoccer) and Facebook (/UCFMensSoccer).


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