In the world of soccer, it far too often seems that the only players making headlines are the ones scoring the highlight reel goals. Not often heard about are the players at the other end of the field trying to stop those goals.
This year, however, a goaltending duo is drawing plenty of attention as Aaron McMurray and Brandon Eagle have worked in tandem to backstop UNB’s men’s soccer team to a 6-0-1 record so far this season.
Although the idea of splitting the goaltending duties may seem unusual to many soccer fans, McMurray and Eagle believe that it has been to the team’s advantage thus far.
“Having a rotation in net keeps some healthy competition between the two of us, because we both want to play to the best of our abilities,” said McMurray, a five-year veteran of the team.
Despite the heated competition on the field, however, the two have not let this distract from their off-field chemistry.
“He’s one of my closest friends on the team, both on and off the field, so it definitely helps to have that other person there all the time for support,” said McMurray.
“Anything that happens during practices or games are not going to affect our relationship off the field,” added Eagle. “Still, on the field we work hard to push each other and I think that makes for a very positive and competitive environment to work in.”
Up until this past weekend when McMurray started back-to-back games, the two had split playing time evenly. Both keepers believe that the utmost goal is to place the team’s best interests before their own desires.
“The most important thing to keep in mind when frustrations arise is that we’re doing it for the team first and foremost. That encourages us to place the team’s interests before our own and to leave everything out on the field,” said Eagle.
One challenge that can arise when splitting the time in net is maintaining the right mindset while on the sidelines.
“I think it’s very difficult coming into the game for the second half,” said McMurray. “The game is just at a completely different place and mentally, you’re not there yet.”
In regards to the upcoming season, both keepers are wary of the temptation to rest on their laurels, and are determined to push themselves even further this year and improve upon last year’s performances.
“I just want to take it game by game and hopefully keep doing well,” said McMurray. “We hope to keep the wins coming and make our way back into the CIS Championships. Once we get there we’ll think a little more about winning a national championship.”
Eagle agreed, saying that although the team gained confidence from their success last season, they will have to work twice as hard because there is now a target on their back.
“We can build off everything we accomplished last year, but we know that we’re not guaranteed anything.”
While McMurray and Eagle have been receiving much acclaim due to their success thus far, they wanted to recognize their third goalie, Adam Grant, for his hard work and commitment to the team.
“I think some people might not realize we have a third keeper here and how he’s such a large part of why we’re successful,” said Eagle. “He pushes us every day in training and is always challenging for the starting role.
“It’s hard sometimes to be the third goalie and still stay dedicated to practices, but Adam has done a fantastic job and deserves to be recognized for all his hard work.”
This week, the V-Reds travel to Moncton to take on the Aigles Bleus on Friday. They return to the BMO Centre on Sunday for a game against the Dalhousie Tigers. Kickoff is at 3:15 p.m.