Nationally ranked Falcons to open in Chicago

The No. 25 Bowling Green State University men’s soccer team will open the 2022 season with a pair of matches in Chicago this weekend.

Coach Eric Nichols and the Falcons will face DePaul University on Friday with first touch set for 4 p.m. ET at Wish Field.

Then, BGSU will meet Loyola University Chicago on Sunday with that match set to begin at 3 p.m. ET at Loyola Soccer Park.

The Falcons are ranked in a pair of national polls. BGSU enters the season ranked 25th in the country in the College Soccer News preseason top-30 poll, and the Falcons are tied for 25th in the United Soccer Coaches preseason listings.

Nichols and the Falcons finished the fall 2021 season with an overall record of 11-6-3, and BGSU advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championships.

BG picked up a 1-0 victory at Louisville in the opening round, marking the fifth NCAA Tournament victory in program history, and the first since 1997.

The Falcons return 17 letterwinners, including nine starters, from last year’s team. The returning players combined to record 62% (21 of 34) of the team’s goals and 78% (32 of 41) of the assists last fall.

Additionally, the two goalkeepers who combined to play every second of last season’s 20 matches both return.

The Falcons were picked to win the MAC regular-season title in 2022. BGSU received 19 points in the league preseason coaches’ poll, with both Akron and Northern Illinois garnering 18 points.

As for BGSU’s opponents this weekend, DePaul was picked to finish ninth in the Big East Conference in the 2022 preseason coaches’ poll.

The Blue Demons ended the 2021 campaign with an overall record of 7-7-3 and a 3-4-3 conference mark.

Jack Richards returns after leading the team in scoring with five goals and 11 points last season. In goal, Gandhi Cruz is back after playing every second of last year’s 17 matches. He had 76 saves and a goals-against average of just 1.12 for head coach Mark Plotkin.

BGSU leads DePaul, 4-0, in the all-time series, but the teams have not met since the 1999 season.

The Falcons have outscored the Blue Demons, 6-0, in the four prior matches, all of which took place during the 1990s. BG is 3-0 at home and 1-0 on the road vs. DePaul.

Loyola opens the season by hosting Bucknell on Friday, before facing the Falcons two days later.

The Ramblers enter the Atlantic 10 Conference this season, and Loyola was picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll. Last year, the Ramblers finished 9-5-2 overall and 6-3-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Billy Hency, Michael Hong and Marc Torrellas all were named to the United Soccer Coaches Players to Watch List. Hency was the 2021 MVC Player of the Year after leading the Ramblers with nine goals and eight assists.

Coach Steve Bode and his staff will look to replace Marcel Kampman, who played every second in goal last fall.

The lone previous match saw the Ramblers post a 3-2, double overtime win in the Windy City in 2005.

The Falcons will open the home portion of the schedule next Thursday (Sept. 1), taking on Ohio State. First touch is set for 7 p.m. at Cochrane Stadium.

To watch this weekend’s games, Friday’s DePaul matchup is scheduled to be streamed by FloSports, while Sunday’s Loyola contest is slated to be aired on ESPN+.