Portland isn't exactly a blueblood name in D1 Men's Soccer, but the Pilots sure can play. They've amassed a 11-4-1 record which included a seven-game winning streak that lasted through the full month of October.
Portland has experienced a huge turnaround on the pitch in 2016 after going 3-12-3 (1-6 WCC) just a season ago. In fact, this will be their first winning season since 2011, when the Pilots finished 11-7-2 (6-5-1). In 2014 the squad had four wins, and the two previous seasons they had seven at the end of each campaign.
First-year head coach Nick Carlin-Voigt has led the team to a perfect 5-0 record in the WCC — a complete surprise for a team that won one league contest last year. Carlin-Voigt came to Portland after four seasons as an associate head coach with the UCLA Bruins. He also previously coached at George Mason.
Under the watchful eye of Carlin-Voigt, the Pilots have flourished. Benji Michel has been dominant on the offensive side of the ball, scoring a team-high 10 goals while distributing four assists for 24 total points. Michel has three game-winners to his credit and has found the back of the net on 22 of his 38 shots. Eddie Sanchez (6 goals, 7 assists), Erik Edwardson (4g, 1a) and Jackson Jellah (3g, 3a) are all formidable weapons up front on a team that has seen 10 different players score. Overall, the team has outscored its opponents 35-17, flip-flopping on their output from last season which saw the Pilots outscored 19-36.
Between the posts, Paul Christensen has picked up 51 saves and has posted five shutouts while giving up 17 total goals for a 1.03 goals against average — cutting his 2015 average of 2.05 in half.
Portland has taken on stiff competition all year, beating the likes of BR-93 Ohio State 2-0, BR-99 Gonzaga 5-1, BR-98 San Francisco 3-2 and BR-119 San Diego 4-0. Most recently, on Wednesday, the Pilots played their final out of conference matchup against undefeated BR-25 Denver and fell 2-1 in double overtime, proving this squad is up for the challenge no matter who is on the other side of the pitch.
"I'm very proud of our group for playing well tonight in tough conditions," Carlin-Voigt said after the game. "You could tell it was our third game in seven days but as the game went on we started to have more momentum. Credit to Denver as they are a good team and there is a reason they haven't lost at home in over two and half years. We scored a very good goal and had a lot of momentum at 1-1 in the second half but fell just sort as we gave up two goals that were preventable. I couldn't be more proud of the team for giving everything they had. Our focus now turns to the conference as we prepare for a very good Pacific team on Sunday."
To close out the regular season, Portland plays BR-29 Pacific on Sunday and Saint Mary's on Nov. 12.
This team came out of no where and turned a lot of heads in the WCC. Don't be surprised if they turn a few more when they show up at the dance.