Soccer tries to get back on track at home

After losing five of its last six games, the U soccer team will try to get back on track this week as the Utes kick off a four-game homestand against TCU and New Mexico at Ute Field.

Thursday’s game against TCU marks the opening of Mountain West Conference play for the Utes (7-5-0), and U head coach Rich Manning can’t wait to get started on the conference slate.

“We are very excited to get after it,” Manning said. “The preseason has prepared us well. We have faced several strong opponents that have tested us.”

Three of the U’s five losses have come against nationally ranked opponents, and Manning is happy with his team’s overall level of play.

“We have improved dramatically since the first few weeks of the season,” Manning explained. “I’m very pleased with our defensive intensity and our competitive spirit.”

The Utes have fared well on defense and at keeping possession, but they have room to improve at finishing off scoring chances.

“We have created some wonderful chances for ourselves that we have not capitalized on,” Manning said. “I know that we’ll come around in that department.”

The Utes received more bad news on the offensive front this week when it was revealed that standout freshman striker Jen Christoffers tore her ACL two weeks ago against California, ending her season.

TCU (5-4-0) will try to prevent the Utes from scoring for the fourth consecutive game on Thursday night at 7 p.m.

Manning thinks the Horned Frogs might have a small advantage in the scouting department since TCU is relatively “unknown” to the Utes, while TCU’s first-year coach, Dan Abdalla, was made very familiar with the U’s program at his last job at UNLV.

“Thursday night’s game will be action-packed,” Manning assured.

New Mexico (3-3-3) comes to Salt Lake City on Saturday for another 7 p.m. conference match-up at Ute Field.

“That will be a tight one as well,” Manning said. “New Mexico has a terrific defense, led by goalkeeper Kristen Winters.”

Winters has a 0.62 goals-against average and nine saves through nine games.

The Utes finish out their home schedule with games against Wyoming and Air Force on Thursday and Saturday of next week.

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