Just last week, Columbia College men’s soccer head coach John Klein said it would take time to figure out who’ll score goals this year for the Cougars.The graduation of forwards Adam Du Toit and Joey Koetting, plus returning top goalscorer Parker Moon’s injury, meant that CC would have some holes to fill in their attack entering Saturday’s season opener against Judson University in Columbia.
After the stellar start Nick Brandt had Friday, Klein may have found the answer at striker a bit earlier than he expected.
The freshman and Helias grad knocked in two debut goals en route to the No. 20-ranked Cougars’ 3-0 win against the Eagles., a game which CC controlled possession offensively and shut down attacks consistently on defense.
Brandt had a game-high five shots and was an integral part of the Cougars’ forward line. His first goal came in the 33rd minute, heading in a cross fired in by Mako Makoanyane, followed by a spectacular one-time volley in the 66th minute from just outside the 18-yard box for his second.
One game won’t immediately make Brandt — a Holts Summit native — the focal point of the attack going forward, especially with Moon due back in October. But Klein was ecstatic at what he saw from Brandt and said that “he will certainly find more goals.”
“Nick Brandt is a special player,” Klein said. “That was fun to watch. That kind of energy level is something that you don’t always see and we haven’t seen always, and he looks like he wants to do that. He’s slick, he’s creative and he’s going to be an entertaining player.”So, how did Brandt feel about his introduction to the college game? He was humble and reserved in his words , but the quality of his goals spoke for themselves Saturday.
“I mean, I just found the net I guess you could say,” Brandt said. “I’ll tell you, (the second goal) was more luck than skill, but it just went in. I was excited...I just tried to come out with the most intensity I possibly could to help the team.”
Saturday’s win also marked Klein’s 250th victory as the head coach of the men’s program, beginning his 20th season as the leader of the team on good footing. Already CC’s all-time program leader in wins for both men’s and women’s soccer, Klein said that the years he’s spent with the Cougars have been fun., but he also admitted that he doesn’t really keep track of how many wins he has.
“I had no idea. It’s just a number, right?” Klein said of his milestone. “It’s been awesome, I love it. This is a really good team, and hopefully that number gets to 265 this year. That’s the important thing is to go out and compete every day and I think they did.”
In a defensive performance that Klein rated “an eight out of 10,” the Cougars stuffed out any chances Judson had of getting back into the match quickly with accurate marking and few mistakes in the back line.
The senior centerback partnership of Casey Bartlett-Scott and Juan Pablo Agredo were enforcers in the middle of the pitch while Caden Castello, Nick Filla and Carson Lindseyhad equally solid games defending.
Agredo even managed to get on the score sheet for Columbia’s second goal, converting from a long Cougars throw-in from short range in the box in the 52nd minute. It was a rare appearance on the scoresheet for the Colombian: the all-American Midwest Conference defender had just a single goal to his name in 18 appearances last year.
“We worked a lot with (the defense) and discussed a lot about when to drop, when to step, how to build out, how to cover each other,” Klein said. “Awesome for J.P., he doesn’t always get that opportunity up top...I thought he worked hard from a defensive standpoint and a pressure standpoint, and he got rewarded as well.”
Columbia will play at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Bellevue University in Bellevue, Neb. The Cougars’ game the against the No. 14 Bruins will be an early-season NAIA Coaches’ Top 25 clash .