The 39th Panther Invitational Preview

Following an entire week of rest, the Milwaukee Panthers men’s soccer team is set to take the pitch again, this time in their storied Panther Invitational – the 39th installment, which just so happens to be the longest-running Division I in-season soccer tournament.

The Panthers, fresh off their 2-1 victory over then-12th ranked Marquette, will play as a ranked team for the first time in a decade as they sit at No. 24 in the Soccer America ranking. That spot will be put to the test as Milwaukee takes on Drake tonight and Bowling Green on Sunday, both matches at Engelmann Stadium.

Drake comes into Friday’s match a wounded animal, having taken two drubbings at the hands of Cal Poly and No. 14 Tulsa.  Cal Poly played a strong attacking match, scoring four goals on Drake keeper Rich Gallagher.  The Bulldogs’ keeper registered four saves in the contest. Danton Irelan and Bryan Jantsch each scored goals for the Bulldogs against Cal Poly.

Against Tulsa, there wasn’t much luck offensively, as the Bulldogs had six shots on goal, all but one saved by Cody Mumma.  The Hurricane pushed through three goals on the Bulldogs, all on starting keeper Gallagher, who also made four saves. After the third goal, Drake coach Sean Holmes elected to go with Darrin MacLeod for the final 12 minutes and change.

It’s uncertain which keeper Holmes will go with tonight. The redshirt senior Gallagher has a 1.7 goals against average for his career, including seven goals allowed in just two matches this year. MacLeod is the keeper of the future for Drake, built on a powerful 6’3” frame.  The question is this: is the future now? Or was Holmes just more concerned about keeping Gallagher level after a brutal weekend?

Milwaukee will definitely be looking to take advantage of whatever problems Drake has defensively. With Rami Younes playing awfully well in his first action as a Panther and Declan Rodriguez prepared to go on a hot streak, the Panthers definitely look like they have the tools to hang some numbers on Drake.

Bowling Green, on the other hand, is coming into the Panther Invitational with their heads held high. The Falcons’ 5-0 victory over Malone may not mean much – Malone isn’t even in the same universe as Division I – but tying Michigan is a big deal. The Wolverines are ranked 14th in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer.  BGSU put 2,273 fans in Cochrane Stadium for the match against Michigan.

The Falcons have had stellar play in goal by keeper Michael Wiest, who racked up seven saves against Michigan on Labor Day while only allowing one goal. Wiest’s 0.5 goals against average on the season is particularly remarkable considering the strong attacking side for the Wolverines.

They definitely have a senior-laden team. Of their six goals scored (all by different players), five of them were from seniors – Ryan Comiskey, Joey D’Agostino, Anthony Grant, Brandon Silva and Ryan Snashall. Wiest is also a senior.

This is the first trip on the road for Drake and Bowling Green. They’ll both be looking for their first victories against Division I opponents, so expect a bloody fight from the two squads.

Sunday’s games are schedule with the fans in mind; Milwaukee plays BGSU at noon so as to allow all the Panther fans the chance to see the Packers well after the Panther game ends. Marquette plays Drake at 3:30, which should allow all the Chicagoans a chance to see the Bears play before coming to Valley Fields.

We leave you with the Black and Gold Network’s interview with Austin Toth:

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