Aug. 9, 2006

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The 2006 season gets underway Sunday for the Ohio State men’s soccer team when the Buckeyes host Dayton at 7 p.m. in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. The match against the Flyers is the first of two exhibition games for Ohio State, the second of which is Aug. 18 in Crew Stadium against Bradley.

GameTracker will have the match live on the men’s soccer schedule page at

With 17 returning letterwinners and eight starters back, the Buckeyes reported for preseason camp Tuesday. Led by 10th-year head coach John Bluem, Ohio State has gone to the NCAA tournament four of the last six seasons, won a Big Ten title and a league regular-season co-championship and has produced six MLS draft picks.

The match Sunday will mark the first game in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium for OSU’s 11 newcomers. The season officially begins Aug. 25-27 with The Bert and Iris Wolstein Soccer Classic Hosted by The Ohio State University, where the Buckeyes will face Hartwick and Furman.

The Buckeyes were 11-8-2 overall last year and finished second in the Big Ten regular season standings at 3-2-1. Ohio State then made its second-consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, where a 1-0 loss at No. 18 Santa Clara ended OSU’s season.

The Buckeyes return ten of their Top 12 scorers from last season and have two All-Big Ten selections back, including defender Dustin Kirby and midfielder Brent Rohrer. Led by Kirby, OSU returns two other starters in the defense and, led by Rohrer, all four starters in the midfield. Leading scorer Kevin Nugent graduated and took with him 20 points from last season, including eight goals, four of which were game winners. Junior Xavier Balc, a third-team all-region pick last year, is back after a five-goal, eight-assist season. He headlines the forwards and will be joined by junior Ryan Kustos and a host of additional contributors.

Along with Nugent, departed starters include goalkeeper Ray Burse Jr. and defender Kyle Veris, both of whom were third-round MLS draft picks last January. Junior Casey Latchem will take over the goalkeeping duties and keep the Buckeyes in good hands there, while starting defenders Kirby, Jim Fisher and Eric Brunner will look for a fourth member of their group, most likely sophomore Tim Gabel.

That said, however, options are plentiful for Bluem, who is Ohio State’s all-time wins leader. Rohrer and Kirby are interchangeable and could be repositioned to alter OSU’s alignment or get another midfielder into the lineup. Finding another forward to play alongside Balc is a high priority, or should a striker tandem emerge, Balc could be moved back to his more natural position of an attacking midfielder.

Seeing all his players perform in game conditions is always the goal for Bluem in exhibition games – winning is understandably secondary. Last season, the Buckeyes dropped their two exhibition games, including a 2-1 loss at Dayton and a 1-0 loss to Cincinnati, but went 5-1 in their first six regular-season games and climbed to as high as No. 11 in the national polls.

Two years ago Ohio State topped Robert Morris 5-1 and Pittsburgh 2-0 in exhibition matches at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium before tying No. 12 Rutgers 2-2 in Crew Stadium. Prior to those two wins, however, the Buckeyes had not won an exhibition match since a 2-1 win over Butler in 2001.

In preparation for the 2006 season, Ohio State went on a 10-day trip to Germany in June, where the Buckeyes won all three of their exhibition matches with a +13 goal differential. The travel party also attended three World Cup matches and went on numerous sight-seeing and team-building excursions.

Dayton, which is celebrating its 50th season of soccer in 2006, returns 18 players from its 2005 squad that went 11-5-4 and finished one game back of first-place in the Atlantic 10 regular-season race. A loss in the A-10 tournament to No. 1 seed Saint Louis would end prove to the Flyers’ season as they were left out of the NCAA tournament.

The Flyers are led by second-year head coach Dennis Currier. Three Dayton seniors were drafted by the Major Indoor Soccer League last March, including two midfielders and a forward. Former Flyer Mark Schulte, who spent time with the Columbus Crew, is now the first American to play professionally in Uruguay and was featured in Sports Illustrated in May.

Dayton topped Ohio State 2-1 in exhibition action in Dayton last August (see later note), but the Buckeyes and Flyers have not met in the regular season since 2000. That season OSU won 2-1 in their second season at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. The Buckeyes lead the regular-season all-time series 22-16-5, which constitutes more meetings (43) than any other opponent in program history other than Indiana (also 43 meetings).

Ohio State, ranked No. 18 at the time, traveled to Dayton last season for its first exhibition match and dropped a 2-1 decision to the Flyers. UD went up 1-0 in the 23rd minute when Lubomir Bogdanov converted a penalty kick. OSU’s Patrick Roan tied the game at 1-1 in the 82nd minute off an assist from Xavier Balc, but the Flyers scored less than a minute later when Antti Arst sent a free kick into the goalkeeper box that Omar Jarun headed in.

Four Flyers are from St. Louis, Mo., which is the hometown of OSU’s Tim Gabel (Wildwood, Mo.). Gabel and UD’s Joe Olwig were club teammates. OSU’s Rob Strachan (Hudson, Ohio) and Dayton’s Tony DiBello (Chesterland, Ohio) were club teammates with the Internationals. From the northeast side of Atlanta, Ga., are Dayton’s Scott Caltabiano (Suwanee) and two Buckeyes – Danny Irizarry (Norcross) and Ben Frasher (Alpharetta). OSU’s Steven Traeger (Littleton, Colo.) and UD’s Zac Gibbens (Loveland, Colo.) were club teammates for the Colorado Rush. OSU’s Ayodele Adedapo (Bexley, Ohio) and Luke Purpero (Waverly, Ohio) played with UD’s Ben Murray (Westerville, Ohio/DeSales) and Kyle Basil (Chillicothe, Ohio) in the Olympic Development Program. Murray and OSU’s Doug Verhoff (Dublin, Ohio) were on rival teams in high school.

Ohio State head coach John Bluem has guided the Buckeyes to 10 or more wins in seven of his nine seasons in Columbus and to all four of the program’s NCAA tournament appearances. His 2004 squad topped No. 11 Memphis and No. 9 Notre Dame in the postseason to advance to the `Sweet 16.’

Bluem owns a record of 90-70-20 (.555) at Ohio State. His win total and win percentage are school records. Overall, his career record stands at 176-97-32 (.630), which includes six seasons at Fresno State. His winning percentage is ranked No. 29 among all active coaches.

On their way to an 11-8-2 season, the Buckeyes statistically outperformed their opponents in nearly every category. OSU outshot its opponent in 17 of 21 games and 279-198 for the season. The shots on-goal advantage was 120-87. The Buckeyes also led in corner kicks, 109-82.

When Ohio State scored first, the team was a perfect 10-0-0. Overall, the Buckeyes were outscored 10-5 in the first half during the season and led at halftime only twice, but they outscored the opposition 17-12 in the second half. Eight of OSU’s games went into overtime, where the Buckeyes were 3-3-2.

Among active players, junior Xavier Balc appears in the OSU career record book twice. He ranks tied for seventh in career assists (12) and eighth in career shots (99). See page 54-55 in the media guide for complete records.

Senior midfielder Brent Rohrer and defender Dustin Kirby were second-team All-Big Ten picks last year, while senior Taylor Korpieski received the same honor as a sophomore in 2004 before injuries cut short his junior season. Junior Xavier Balc was a third-team all-region selection last year. Three current Buckeyes have been named to the Big Ten All-Freshmen Team in their careers, including Korpieski, Balc and sophomore Danny Irizarry.

Ohio State said goodbye to four seniors from last year’s team who helped lead the Buckeyes to 38 wins over the last four years, which tied for the fourth-most by one class in program history. Forward Kevin Nugent and goalkeeper Ray Burse were three-year starters, while defender Kyle Veris was a two-year starter and two-time All-Big Ten pick after transferring from Akron. Midfielder Reid Traeger started four of the last five games last season and was an important part of the midfield.

Ohio State owns a 37-16-9 (.669) record in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium since the facility opened for the 1999 season. The Buckeyes will play host to the 2006 Big Ten Championship there Nov. 2-5. OSU was 4-3-1 at JOMS last season. OSU’s best season at JOMS was in 2002 with a 7-1-1 record and facility-best six-game winning streak. The JOMS attendance record is 2,081 vs. Indiana, Oct. 24, 2004.

Six Buckeyes have been Major League Soccer draft picks since 2003. Last January in the third round, defender Kyle Veris was taken at No. 25 overall by the L.A. Galaxy and goalkeeper Ray Burse Jr. was selected at No. 30 by F.C. Dallas and was the first goalkeeper picked. In the 2003 draft, forward Andy Rosenband and defender Jake Traeger (brother of current Buckeye Steven Traeger) were taken in the seventh round, while in 2005 forward Justin Cook and midfielder Sammy Tamporello were taken in the supplemental draft.

### GO BUCKS! ###