MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Marcus Caldeira is off to an impressive start to this season.

West Virginia’s young sophomore forward has tallied three goals in the opening two games of the year. He notched two scores in the season-opener last week against California Baptist, and found the back of the net once again Monday evening against Bucknell to break a scoreless tie in the second half.

Just 180 minutes into the 2023 campaign, the striker is already more than halfway to matching his goal production from last season. Caldeira is taking advantage of the opportunity to shine as he continues to become a focal point in West Virginia’s offensive attack.

“He deserves it. He does so much other work away from tapping from five yards out,” WVU men’s soccer head coach Dan Stratford said. “He’s an outlet for us. He’s strong, he’s quick, as well. He can run the channels.”

Caldeira’s third goal of the season was a product of the 18-year-old being in the right place at the right time. Frederik Jorgensen’s shot from the left side was initially saved by the Bison keeper. However, the deflected shot bounced right to the feet of Caldeira, who tapped it in without contest.

The first goal of the night in West Virginia’s 2-0 win, it proved to be the game-winning goal — already the fifth of his young collegiate career.

“There’s a lot that the other boys can learn from him, which is a big compliment for Marcus, because he’s still only 18. He’s still very, very young himself, as well,” added Stratford. “So, when he gets opportunities like that, he deserves every single one of them, because of the work he does the other 80-plus minutes of the game.”

Caldeira’s two goals against CBU better showed the type of player the Mississauga, Ontario, Canada native can be.

On his first-half goal, Caldeira sprinted past his defender on the backline to catch the worm-burning pass from the midfield perfectly in stride. With one touch to his right, he got past the charging California Baptist keeper. On his next touch, Caldeira softly booted the soccer ball toward the net, which it rolled into despite a last-ditch sliding attempt by one of the CBU captains.

In the second half, Caldeira was patient as his teammates worked the ball into an open space on the right side of the pitch. With midfielder Otto Ollikainen running free to the box, Caldeira took off. Ollikainen’s cross was on point, and Caldeira dove forward to head the pass beyond the keeper’s reach and into the net.

“Marcus has his sights set on the highest achievements. He wants to be a professional one day. If he keeps scoring three goals in two games, he’s going to continue to make his strides,” said Stratford. “He’s incredibly ambitious. And as I said after the game, he’s also really, really humble. That’s a perfect cocktail, and fits right in with the type of culture we want here.”

As a freshman last season, Caldeira started 15 of WVU’s 18 contests. In addition to his five goals, which were tied for the team lead, he also added four assists. Two of those assists came against American, who West Virginia will face in Washington D.C., on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

Caldeira didn’t show his goal-scoring abilities until the second half of last season, netting the first two goals of his career on Oct. 8. Up to that point, he had played in 10 games and not scored. Beginning with that contest against Old Dominion, he has found the back of the next eight times in 11 matches.

“He’s the focal point. He’s going to be the focal point of our attack. I think it took him a little bit of time to adapt last year. He was 17 when he walked through the door, so I think there’s still a little bit of growth in terms of his own maturity, and that aspect of how he really turns into a man and understands what that allows him to do within the game,” added Stratford.

Caldeira and West Virginia (2-0) hit the road for the first time this season later this week. The Mountaineers’ two-match road swing will take them to Yale (0-0) and American University (0-1).