Keeping high intensity level key for Cougars

Tuesday, September 21, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:49 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Columbia College men’s soccer team opens its American Midwest Conference schedule at 7 p.m. against Missouri Baptist at Owens Soccer Stadium.

The Cougars are the two-time defending conference champions. John Klein, who is in his fifth year as coach, has guided the Cougars to three conference titles. They also won the championship in 2000.

The Cougars (5-2) said it’s up to them to play well enough to win their conference matches.

“We won the seven conference games last year,” senior forward Juan Pablo Irrera said. “So I think that all the conference teams will try to beat us.”

Columbia College goes into tonight’s game against the Spartans (5-2-2) without a full roster.

Junior midfielder Sasha McMillin will not play after receiving a red card in Saturday’s 2-1 victory against William Jewell. McMillin’s ejection forced the Cougars to play a man down for the final 22 minutes. He said it was his first red card in his college career.

Another midfielder, freshman Justin Robinson is questionable for the Cougars. He was assisted off the field in the second half of Saturday’s game after aggravating a right ankle sprain he suffered Sept. 4 against Southern Nazarene.

“I think he probably has the most serious injury,” Klein said. “You know, he’s probably 50 or 60 percent. It’s just an injury we’d like to see healed. I think he’ll be available if we need him.”

Irrera also came off the field Saturday. He limped off late in the first half and a trainer wrapped his right leg with an ice pack. Irrera, who played limited minutes early in the second half, said he has been playing through a sore hamstring that has been bothering him for two weeks.

The Cougars are scheduled to play two games in three days. Klein said that he isn’t worried about his team’s level of energy.

“We practice every day and that’s what preseason is for,” Klein said. “We’ve trained consistently, now, for over a month and with very few days off.”

The Cougars expect tonight’s match to be much like the game against William Jewell.

Senior defender Jared Cross said he doesn’t expect the Missouri Baptist offense to be as potent as it was last year after the graduation of Spartans forward Sheldon Richard.

“I mean they’re overall strong players and they have the strong players that played with them last year, but (Richard) was their key player” Cross said. “That’s like us missing (Irrera) or something.”

Klein said it might be difficult to get his team to focus on Missouri Baptist.

“We just came off of a big win, and naturally we’re on a high,” Klein said. “The guys left an awful lot on the field. So, it’s going to be important for them to find that same level of intensity.”

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