Schoenle leads WVU in goals this season, more concerned with team’s success
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 08:10
The West Virginia men’s soccer team is loaded with players who possess potential MLS-level talent, but senior centerback Eric Schoenle is widely considered the most skilled of them all, and his play this season has easily backed up those claims.
The senior captain has been stout defensively on a consistent basis, as he played a major role in the Mountaineers’ five shutouts this season, but he has also been West Virginia’s most productive player offensively, as well.
Schoenle has already matched his season-high in goals (5) and leads the team in points (10), and he does so from a defensive position on the pitch at centerback – one of the farthest from the opponent’s goal.
But the Mountaineers’ free-flowing style of attack promotes a lot of opportunities on corner kicks and free kicks for Schoenle to use his immaculate control to find the back of the net.
"He’s a danger on set pieces," said West Virginia head coach Marlon LeBlanc. "I think that’s why so many scouts and pros really rate him high, because having a centerback that can score on set pieces is a key."
Schoenle’s production in 2012 has increased his career total in points to 31 and goals to 13, but the senior has always been more concerned with the Mountaineers’ result as a whole than his individual performances.
"I could score zero goals, and as long as we win I’d still be happy," Schoenle said. "I’m just getting good service; guys are getting good balls into the box."
The humble senior’s success in finding the back of the net has also seemed to have a direct correlation to the Mountaineers’ success this season, as Schoenle scored in three of the four matches where West Virginia saw its longest winning streak of the season.
LeBlanc says that although he thinks Schoenle is perfectly capable of scoring 15 goals in a collegiate season, he knows that the senior’s true talents lie on his touch, control and – ultimately – his play on the defensive side of the pitch.
"His game isn’t going to be physically trying to throw a guy over; his game is reading the play, intercepting the balls and winning tackles," LeBlanc said. "He’s a dominant player in the air. One of the great things that he does is when he intercepts a ball, is that he’s able to still keep it in bounds and keeps the possession for us. And I think he’s cerebral that way. He can mix it up if it needs be, but that’s not his game. His game is intercepting balls and reading angles."
Schoenle affirms he’s a defensive-minded player first and that his success finding the back of the net this season has culminated from great chances because of his teammates.
"If opportunities come and I can pick a pass off and go forward, the guys do a good job of getting me some cover which gives me the freedom to go and move forward if the time is right," he said. "So if I can, I can get forward, but at the same time defense is my number one goal and getting shutouts. It’s all about opportunities."
Oddly enough, Sunday Schoenle found himself being included in an example LeBlanc was trying to make after the Mountaineers’ excruciating loss Tuesday, where the team surrendered two goals and a late lead to a dangerous Elon team in a crucial RPI match.
LeBlanc benched several key senior starters, including Schoenle, for a majority of the first half.
It could have been easy for the senior captain to question his coach’s methods in a conference match down the stretch of the season, but Schoenle responded like a future professional by supporting his teammates while on the bench, and then making a nearly immediate impact upon entering the match – scoring a critical goal on a penalty kick early in the second half.
Schoenle admitted after the game that although it was definitely tough to sit on the bench, he ultimately wanted to show his coach that he just wants what’s best for the team.
"I was pretty fired up when I got in there. It got me a little mad, but once he put me in, I knew I had a job to do."