By Joseph Staszewski
A grin quickly appeared on Tim Parker’s face at the mention of the St. John’s University men’s soccer team adjusting its formation this season.
That wasn’t always the case. The players were at first skeptical of going from a 4-4-2 formation to a 5-3-2. In Coach Dave Masur’s 23 seasons, the Red Storm has always been known as a strong defensive bunch. Why change what is proven to work?
“The first time he said it we all questioned it a bit just ’cause last year we felt we played pretty well defensively,” Parker said.
The doubt quickly evaporated.
In the players’ minds the move has bolstered their play on both sides of the ball. The extra defender back makes it harder for opponents to score, while allowing St. John’s to safely push players up to generate more scoring chances. The Red Storm is off to a 5-1-0 start and ranked No. 12 in the country.
“We are a little bit more of a threat,” Parker said. “We keep the ball better in the back. We can play out of the back and we are able to get forward more. I feel like we create more of an attack out of the back.”
Unfortunately, more scoring chances haven’t always translated into more goals for St. John’s. The Johnnies have struggled to finish, but have won four straight games heading into their conference opener on the road against No. 1 Creighton Sept. 21. The last three victories have come by a score of 1-0.
“We are used to being strong in the back late in games, but we do wish we could have a couple 3-0 games,” Parker said.
Defense is still the key to victory for St. John’s. That will never change as long as Masur is on the sidelines. It’s made the Johnnies one of the nation’s most decorated programs. It isn’t easy to win that way, with so little margin for error, but St. John’s continues to do it behind Parker, Casey Osborne, Adrian L’Esperance, Jamie Thomas and Jordan Rouse.
“We think to be a great team we have to win 1-0 games,” Red Storm keeper Rafael Diaz said.
St. John’s has claimed all five of its wins by a goal and its only loss is to then-No. 20 Virginia 2-0. The Red Storm would love to win more comfortably and put away the quality chances it is creating.
“There are a lot of things we have to do a lot better,” Masur said.
The Johnnies do have defense down in their new formation and just how good they can be when they put it all together remains to be seen.