The Rams will take on each of the top-three ranked teams in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America preseason poll this season. Eight of VCU’s first 10 opponents are ranked in preseason.
Head coach Dave Giffard considers the team’s 2015 non-conference schedule the toughest in the country.
VCU, not ranked in the top-25 preseason poll, lost 1-0 at home to North Carolina State University in their only exhibition match on Aug. 22. VCU men’s soccer coach Dave Giffard used the opportunity to give 27 of his players time on the field.
“It was good to get out and play against another college team,” Giffard said. “We got minutes for a lot of guys and we were able to see where we are at this point in preseason. Now we have a week to work to get better and improve some things, especially in the attack.”
VCU opened the season at SportsBacker Stadium against No. 25 ranked University of Akron on Aug. 21, then against No. 21 Coastal Carolina University at home on Aug. 23. This week, they will travel to California to play the No. 16 ranked University of California on Friday, Sept. 4 and No. 8 Stanford University on Sunday, Sept. 6.
Later in September, VCU will take on each of the top three teams in succession across an eight-day stretch: No. 3 Georgetown University at home Sept. 17; defending national champion No. 2 University of Virginia at home Sept. 21 and the top-ranked team, University of California Los Angeles, on Sept. 25.
Giffard hopes to make improvements on offense, as the team struggled to get goals last year, scoring only 18 goals in 20 games to finish with a 7-8-5 record.
“You can look on the outside and say, boy, it was a tough year,” Giffard told the Richmond-Times Dispatch. “Well, it was in that we didn’t score as many goals as I thought we were capable of, but we also gave up the fewest goals in the history of VCU against probably, at that point, the best schedule in the history of VCU and were among the leaders in the country.”
Maintaining defensive stability will also be a priority. Last year the Rams only allowed 14 goals, as the team finished in third place in the Atlantic-10 regular season standings.
The Rams will see the return of two crucial defenders that helped keep eight clean sheets last season: junior Juan Fajardo Ortiz and senior Denis Castillo, both made the A-10 preseason team this year. Senior goalkeeper Garrett Cyprus will also return.