Missouri State’s men’s soccer has had an amazing season with only one loss and an early-season spot in the top 25. They’ve had this success by having a stellar defense and an aggressive offense.
“We’ve been consistent day-in and day-out,” head coach Jon Leamy said. “It’s just been a good run. We’re on top of games. Every game is competitive, and we’re in every one of them.”
During Missouri State’s run, the defense has been leading the way, holding every team but one — Santa Clara — to one goal. This makes them one of the toughest teams in the conference.
The Bears’ defense ranks top 10 in the country and No. 1 in the Missouri Valley Conference in goals against average, only allowing .568 goals per game.
The defense has also only allowed opponents 109 shot attempts so far this year compared to Missouri State’s 161.
“This is what Missouri State is built on — just keeping clean sheets or restricting them to one goal,” senior Conor Ingram said. “If we get one or two (goals), we know we’re going to win the game or at least get a point.”
Missouri State’s great defense has helped on the other side of the field, creating a good offense.
The Bears have managed to use their defense to keep possession of the ball, allowing them to take a lot of shots.
In the MVC, Missouri State ranks third in shots per game with 161 and goals averaged per game with 1.615.
Missouri State also has a number of offensive tools, with nine different players having at least one goal. Leading the team in goals is sophomore Josh Dolling, who has nine, then Ingram is in second with two and the rest of the nine have just one goal.
“Last season, I didn’t really get to the point I wanted to be with injuries and fitness, but this year, I think I’ve been able to show what I can do,” Dolling said. “A lot of it comes from other players who don’t get the credit they deserve because they do a lot of things off the board that go unnoticed, creating chances for me. It’s been a great team effort.”
Not only are the Bears good at scoring, but they’re aggressive in doing so. In the first half, Missouri State has scored 11 goals, taken 76 shots and 32 corners.
This is compared to the second half, where the Bears have scored seven goals, taken 69 shots and 31 corners.
“I think the boys have a mindset that they want to go to goal,” Leamy said. “The work that it takes to create the goals — we’ve got so many guys on the team that are able to step up and find it. It’s a great team atmosphere, and they want to play entertaining, attacking soccer.”
Even with the Bears doing things right on both offense and defense, they have one other thing working in their favor — chemistry.
“We win as a team and lose as a team,” Ingram said. “We know, with our strong core group in the team, we can overcome any obstacle.”
After tying with Drake, Missouri State faces one more obstacle in the regular season: Central Arkansas. If Missouri State wins against Central Arkansas and Loyola loses to Washington, MSU can clinch the No. 1 seed in the MVC tournament.
If MSU gets either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, they will have a bye in the MVC Championship, allowing them to not play until the semifinals.
The game against Central Arkansas will be in Springfield at 7 p.m., which will also be Missouri State’s senior night.
“We come back next week, and we have a huge game with UCA for our last game,” Leamy said. “We’re potentially battling for first place, second place. Everyone on the team knows Saturday night is a massive game and that will lead into the next if it’s tournament. So, this is a great time of the year, and the guys are excited. This what the guys worked so hard for, to see the season continue and continue.”