The St. John’s University men’s soccer season opens on Thursday when they visit Clemson to start a 17-game schedule, 10 of which will be played on-campus at Belson Stadium.
In the spring, St. John’s finished the non-traditional season with a 5-5-0 record. Four losses were to either Georgetown or Seton Hall, top 10 nationally ranked teams. The Red Storm went undefeated in preseason, but were picked to finish sixth in the Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
“There are seven Big East teams that are legitimate NCAA tournament teams; it’s the strongest the league has ever been,” says Dr. Dave Masur, the Red Storm’s coach since 1991. “In 2019 the Big East was the second-ranked conference behind the ACC, we’re on par to close that gap this year and we hope we can lead that off by getting a result against Clemson.”
Two-time All-Big East First Team member Tani Oluwaseyi, who scored five goals – including four game-winners – this spring, will miss the entire season as he recovers from knee surgery. Masur says his club was picked to finish sixth in the league likely because of Oluwaseyi’s absence. “I hope it motivates the team,” Masur says. “We’re probably one or two spots down because it was known that Tani was out.”
St. John’s, which reached the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 in 2019, gets back three of its top four scorers. Junior forward Wesley Leggett collected three goals this past spring while Einar Lye and Jared Juleau each scored twice. Lye and captain Brandon Knapp were named to the All-Big East Third Team. “I think we’ve been more dangerous on the attacking side,” Masur says. “Hopefully they can collectively fill Tani’s shoes.”
Goalie Luka Gavran, who compiled a 0.72 goals against average and an .846 save percentage in 10 appearances last season returns in goal.
Players with Queens ties include graduate D Rafael Busamante (Corona), sophomore F Constantinos Nicolaou (Little Neck) and freshman GK Emanuel Smalios (Whitestone). Senior D Anthony Herbert is from Brooklyn.
On Sept. 6th, the Atlantic-10 champion Fordham Rams will visit Queens. Head Coach Carlo Acquista, a member of the Red Storm’s 1996 national championship squad, led the Rams to a 7-1-2 record this spring, their one loss coming in overtime of the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Marshall, the eventual national champs.
On Oct.16, the Red Storm will host Big East champions Seton Hall, to whom the Johnnies suffered a pair of one-goal defeats last season. The Pirates eventually reached the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament.
“Because of our stadium, our history, the band, the cheerleaders, the interest that we get, everyone is excited to play us,” says Masur. “We never get a down game from anybody who shows up at Belson.”
After Clemson, the Johnnies return to Belson Stadium for five home games between Aug. 30 and Sept. 13 before starting Big East play on Sept. 18 at Xavier. SJU-TV will produce the first three home matches for ESPN3. Fans can catch the Red Storm against UAlbany (Aug. 30), Marist (Sept. 4), and Fordham (Sept. 6) on ESPN’s website and app. The final seven home matches of the season will air on FloSports, which streams the BIG EAST Digital Network.