One thing Southern Oregon won’t have to worry about is getting cheated out of top-notch competition in its introduction to the NAIA men’s soccer national championship site.
Seeded 13th, the Raiders (17-2-3 overall) will play the first game in a schedule of eight second-round contests at 11 a.m. Monday against No. 4-seeded Rio Grande (Ohio) at OC Great Soccer Park in Irvine, California.
The Red Storm (19-0-0) held the No. 1 spot in the final NAIA Top 25 coaches’ poll and is the only one of the 16 remaining teams to have previously won a national title, most recently in 2015 before making it back to the final game a year later.
Rio is “a quality team made up of international players who come from strong playing pedigrees,” says Raiders coach Davie Carmichael, “and who have experience playing at this stage of the tournament.”
Both teams qualified for the national field with automatic berths; the Raiders got theirs by taking the Cascade Conference regular-season crown with an 11-0-2 record, and the Red Storm won the River State Conference regular-season and tournament championships.
To get to the final site, they had to go through the NAIA opening round on Nov. 17.
SOU advanced by winning a 1-0 thriller against UC Merced at Raider Stadium. The lone score was netted in overtime, where in the 96th minute Esteban Castaneda’s corner kick resulted in an own goal.
The Raiders didn’t allow a shot on goal, and after halftime they had advantages of 14-1 in shots and 9-1 in corner kicks.
In its first round match, Rio Grande defeated Lawrence Tech (Mich.) 4-0 with four second-half goals from different players. It was blanked in the first half for just the second time this season but came away with its NAIA-leading 16th shutout.
“We know that they make very few mistakes and play the game with a sense of urgency,” said Carmichael. “We are going to have to be at the top of our game to advance, but we will enter the match with confidence and be ready to compete.”
SOU has the longest active unbeaten streak in the NAIA at 20 games. The Raiders have only trailed once — for a total of 13 minutes — during the streak.
Nineteen Raiders have scored goals and 11 have punched in game-winners for the Raiders.
Noah Addie (10 goals, one assists) and Mitchell Pinney (six goals, five assists) lead the team in points and have three game-winners each.
SOU features the last two CCC defensive players of the year: juniors Michael Miller (2018) and Wyatt Zabinski (‘17). Zabinski has the second-best goals allowed average (0.4) in the NAIA, and the Raiders’ 15 shutouts are second only to Rio Grande.
Under 30th-year head coach Scott Morrissey, the Red Storm is in the tournament for the 18th consecutive season and won championships in 2003 and ‘15. Morrissey is a three-time NAIA coach of the year and has pulled from all over the world to build the program. His latest roster includes two Americans, neither of whom see regular time.
Rio Grande leads the NAIA in goals and has outscored opponents 106-5 with a 244-45 difference in shots on goal. Three of those goals were allowed in one game — the River States tournament championship against West Virginia Tech, which resulted in a 4-3 overtime victory.
Senior Mitchell Osmond, a center back from Sydney, Australia, was the River States player of the year after leading the Red Storm to 16 shutouts.
Freshman forward Nicolas Cam Orrellana of Santiago, Chile, owns a team-high 21 goals, the eighth-most in the NAIA.
The SOU-Rio Grande winner will play a quarterfinal game at 11 a.m. Wednesday against either No. 5 Missouri Valley (14-5-3) of the Heart of America Athletic Conference or No. 12 Spring Arbor (Mich.) (17-4-1), the Crossroads League champion.
Missouri Valley lost last year’s national title game in double-overtime against Wayland Baptist (Tex.), and Spring Arbor is at the final site for the second time in three seasons.