West Virginia men’s soccer has a newfound confidence, but it will get tested on Saturday when the Mountaineers (4-6-2, 1-1-2 SBC) host No. 2 Kentucky (8-0-3, 3-0-1). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and the game will be shown on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
WVU’s offense has come alive over the last two games, tallying seven goals across a pair of wins. Freshman striker Marcus Caldeira has especially come into his own in the short stretch, recording three goals and an assist in the two victories.
“We’ve liked [his play] throughout the season, it’s just the missing piece has been when he gets on the end of a chance, and that seems to have obviously turned around a little bit in recent weeks,” said WVU coach Dan Stratford. “If he’s going to score on top of those other qualities he’s going to bring, then yeah, he’s going to continue to deserve to be out there.”
Caldeira’s form will be challenged against the formidable Kentucky defense, which ranks second in the Sun Belt Conference allowing less than a goal per game. That is facilitated by the best offense in the league, tallying 30 goals in 11 games.
Eythor Bjorgolfsson leads the attack, ranking fourth in the Sun Belt with six scores. Stratford described the Norway international as “a handful” for his defense.
“[He’s] very, very capable and quite a rare thing to find within the college level that you have someone with that level of physicality that still has enough pace, enough technical quality and intelligence to go with it, so they’ve got a great number nine up there,” Stratford said.
This clash has major implications in the Sun Belt standings with four games remaining on each team’s schedule. Kentucky sits atop the league with 10 points after an unbeaten start to its SBC slate, leading second-place Marshall by two. WVU, in fourth, could move within a game of the league lead with a win.
Kentucky will look to get back on the winning train after taking a draw with Dayton to snap a four-match win streak.
“We know we have our work cut out for us,” Stratford said. “We think it’s a good time to be playing them on the back of obviously what we’ve been able to achieve the last two games and then knowing they had a tough run against Dayton the other night in difficult decisions, we’re hoping we can bring a bit more energy and that the home crowd especially can help us get over the line on Saturday night.”