SEWARD, Neb. – For the second-straight season, the Concordia University men’s soccer team put York College on its heels in a battle between longtime rivals. Marcelo Hernandez led off the night’s goal scoring in the eighth minute, sparking the Bulldogs to a comfortable 4-0 victory inside Bulldog Stadium in the season opener for Concordia.
Now in his ninth season as head coach, Jason Weides has led the defending GPAC tournament champion Bulldogs to season-opening victories in three-straight seasons.
This 2016 group has a much different look to it than the one that celebrated a GPAC title last November. Five newcomers, including Hernandez, were part of Wednesday’s starting lineup.
“It was overall positive,” Weides said. “We’re still trying to figure ourselves out. There are a lot of new components and a lot of new faces. It’ll take us a little time to get all on the same page. Honestly we were just looking forward to playing someone besides ourselves. We’re not championship level today, but overall it was a good first step.”
A transfer from Evergreen State, Hernandez made his long-awaited return to the playing field on Wednesday after having sat out the 2015 campaign. As part of a brilliant sequence, Micah Lehenbauer played a touch behind his back to Hernandez, who calmly slotted the ball past goalkeeper Ighor Tavares. Roughly 10 minutes later freshman Carlos Ferrer emerged with the first goal of his collegiate career.
Ferrer and Hernandez figure to make an instant impact up front for a potentially dynamic attack.
“I think we have a lot of attacking options,” Weides said. “I don’t think scoring goals will be a problem for us. Those two guys are big additions and we have a lot of other guys like Matthew Ho. Even some of our returners are really playing at a good level like Micah Lehenbauer. They’re really hitting on all cylinders.”
Lehenbauer added to the fun with a 32nd-minute goal to make it a cushy 3-0 halftime advantage. Then in the 50th minute, senior defender Andrew Mussell capitalized on a rare opportunity and headed in his first career goal from 10 yards out.
Mussell is now a leader for a team that said goodbye to a large group of seniors following the 2015 campaign.
“It’s definitely weird having so many seniors drop off the face of the planet,” Mussell said. “You could see from day one when we started our training two weeks ago that we were itching for this and we were ready. We’re here to be a team, not 11 individual players on the field. We’re here as one unit.”
Concordia got the better of York in the shot count, 13-6. Eight different Bulldogs took at least one shot for a well-rounded attack. In goal, Weides employed both Mark Horsburgh (57 minutes) and Nick Varilek (33 minutes). They were needed for just two combined saves
The Bulldogs will continue play from Seward on Saturday when Graceland University (Iowa) pays a visit to Bulldog Stadium. The action is set to get started at 8 p.m. Graceland owns a record of 1-0 having defeated Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.), 2-0, on Aug. 27.