Not since the glory days of Denver University alum and former Colorado Rapid Andre Shinyashiki have the men’s soccer team hosted a NCAA playoff game on Pioneers Field in Denver’s University Park neighborhood. Four long years have passed since 2018 and finally Division 1 men’s soccer tournament play returns to the Mile High City.
The tough Pioneers will tackle the University of San Diego at 2 pm this Thursday.
Denver learned that it won its 12th NCAA bid on Monday. According to the programs' media relations department, it is the program’s 11th invitation since rejoining Division I in 1998. It is fifth-consecutive bid and its ninth bid in the last 10 seasons, a remarkable compilation of achievements for a small market university.
The winner of the contest will travel east to play No. 7 Duke University on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Denver hit its stride in late September. The talented team is made up of many local metropolitan Denver elite-level soccer club players, including Sam Bassett, the younger brother of former Colorado Rapids star, Cole Bassett.
The swift sophomore is a product of the Colorado Rapids Academy. He has scored seven times and delivered six assists this season.
Bassett helped the team sweep through their Summit League playoffs and were crowned champions on November 12th. In addition to Bassett, local Real Colorado Soccer Club alumni, Ian Smith and Trevor Wright were consistent contributors during head coach Jamie Franks’ 2022 campaign.
In front of the Pios goal, freshman Isaac Nehme has held his own against incoming attacks.
The native of Colorado Springs, and longtime commuter to his Colorado Rapids training sessions was 13-2-4 this year, and had nine clean sheets.
The six-foot tall Neheme has been called into US National Team Player Evaluation Camps, and has frequently trained with the Colorado Rapids first team.
Following their championship win over the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Pioneers’ Jamie Franks stated, ”I just thought that we found another level, with our system of play, with guys coming in and doing their jobs, playing their roles. We switched things up a little bit in the first half, and I thought it benefited us greatly.”
The skipper continued “You recruit really high-character kids because in games like this, they’re going to bring the very best versions of themselves. I thought that the group just did a really good job of focusing on the things you can control — your positioning, your proactiveness and your grit — and those are three staples that we demand from all of our players, and I just thought that they brought it today.”
Denver finish their 2022 campaign 13-2-5 overall and 6-0-2 in Summit League play. DU’s 13 wins tie for the fourth most in a single season in program history.
The Pioneers’ 12 shutouts as a team this year ties for the second-most in a single-season in program history.
And since September 20th, they have racked 9 wins and three ties.
San Diego concluded their year- 8-4-6 overall, and 6-0-1 West Coast Conference (WCC).
Against rival San Diego, Denver is 1-1. The Pios last faced of with the potent Toreros side in 2015. Denver defeated San Diego 2-1.
In NCAA Division I Tournament play, Denver is in 1-4-1 in the NCAA First Round matches.