After a frustrating defeat in which a ranked team lost to an unranked one, game-tying shots ping off goalposts, and your team falls just short of a win that would keep it in consideration for postseason play, there’s not a lot of positive things to say.
Unless, of course, Justin Robinson is on your team.
After battling an ankle injury for much of 2004, Columbia College soccer standout Robinson is finally getting his chance. With six goals a little more than halfway through the Cougars schedule, Robinson has already doubled his total from all of last season. The sophomore from Lee’s Summit brings to the Cougars skill and the ability to create scoring opportunities, said coach John Klein.
”We’ve encouraged the guys to play to his feet,” Klein said. “He creates the most for us out there. He’s dangerous in a lot of ways.”
The Cougars have a lot of the tools they need on both sides of the ball. The problem has been in execution and finishing.
Tuesday night, in a 2-1 loss to the Bearcats of McKendree College, halftime meant getting the team away from the field and encouraging it to increase the intensity of the game. No matter the score or the opponent, Robinson has no problem maintaining high intensity.
“I’m pumped up when I wake up,” Robinson said. “I’ve been playing soccer for so long, I get pumped up for every game.”
Despite the added fight, Robinson and the Cougars played with for the final 45 minutes, the 2-0 deficit proved to be too much to overcome, though the Cougars’ Marcos Fernandes added his fifth goal of the season in the 65th minute.
In falling to 5-1-3, Klein realizes what this year’s team is missing after losing the top two goal scorers of 2004, Ben Boehner and Juan Pablo Irrera.
“We’ve got fast players. We’ve got skilled players. What we don’t have is that complete player,” Klein said.
Robinson is on his way to becoming that player, once he gains the confidence that comes with playing time and support that leads to more goals, Klein said.
So for now, the Cougars might have played themselves out of an invitation to the NAIA National Tournament, but they still have a lot to play for.
“Now, they’re playing for pride,” Klein said.
As the season begins to wind down, Klein can’t help but look ahead to the future of his soccer team. And there, at the forefront, is Robinson, who Klein calls his team’s best player.
But the Cougars can’t afford to look too far ahead, as they have a big challenge in facing the defending national champions, Lindenwood University, Thursday in St. Charles.