The ASU men’s soccer club is riding high after starting the season with a perfect 4-0 record.
The team was in San Diego recently to participate in the Aztec Tournament, which is an annual event that does not count toward the team’s conference record.
The tournament consists of three games to decide which teams will meet in the final.
The Sun Devils finished with two losses and one tie, but the losses came against Utah and the University of San Diego, two tough teams. Meanwhile the tie was against Cal State University, Northridge.
The Sun Devils didn’t make the tournament final, but they made good use of their games by implementing new strategies that will benefit them going into the remaining conference games.
The tournament also gave the team a chance to play a lot of players who have not had the opportunity to play up to this point in the season, and it allowed ASU to gel more as a team.
Senior midfielder Taylor Loken said he enjoyed the trip to San Diego because of how much time the players have to spend together.
“That’s the point of this tournament. It’s fun to travel with the guys, and it’s fun to get to know everybody even more,” Loken said.
Loken also said the team is actually relieved to have lost two games during the tournament.
“I think it put us in a better place, that now we’re even more prepared for conference play,” he said.
One player that wasn’t able to make the trip was season-leading scorer junior Ibrahima Diop, who has been nursing a hamstring injury since before the beginning of the season.
Diop has played close to perfect soccer since the season began and leads the team in scoring with 5 goals in 4 games thus far.
Aside from Diop’s hamstring problem, the team is looking healthy as it goes through a long layoff from games. ASU will have two full weeks of rest and crucial practice time that will help them prepare for the tough games ahead.
The next game on the schedule for ASU is against UA on Oct. 4 in Tucson. The last time the rivals met, ASU dominated the second half and came away with a 3-1 win.
Loken said the Sun Devils will expect a much tougher UA team in Tucson on Oct. 4, but he feels that if they can continue to focus on shutting down the Wildcats’ offense, ASU should come away with a victory.
One of the bigger challenges ASU will face in Tucson is the rabid soccer fans that come out for that big game.
Loken said the team is mentally prepared for this game, but it knows that it will require extra mental toughness as UA fans will come out to support and be vocal.
“They bring out 200 or 300 kids,” he said. “Yelling at us (and) screaming at us whether we’re doing good or bad.”
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