Games of the week
Boys soccerLakenheath at Kaiserslautern FridayLakenheath at Ramstein Saturday For some teams, the 2015 DODDS-Europe soccer season won’t really pick up until after spring break. Lakenheath isn’t one of those teams. The Lancers are in the midst of a four-game season-opening stretch that will serve as a highly informative evaluation of the team’s hopes of contention in the newly-expanded Division I ranks. Adding to the degree of difficulty is the fact that the slate is comprised entirely of road games; the Lancers, in fact, won’t play on their home pitch until May 1. Halfway through the swing, however, the Lancers are looking good. They opened their season Friday with an 8-1 drubbing of Division III Brussels, then blanked a Division I rival in a 3-0 win over SHAPE the next day. But now the road gets longer and the opponents get tougher. This weekend brings a marathon commute across the English Channel and back-to-back visits to last year’s Division I runner-up and champion. Still, it’s not a bad time for Lakenheath to venture into the heartland of large-school European soccer and play a match on the Kaiserslautern High School field that will host the DODDS-Europe title game in two months’ time. Kaiserslautern, while loaded with returning talent from last year’s deep playoff run, could be vulnerable to an upset. The Raiders have yet to see high-level competition, with only an 11-0 walkover against Baumholder on their ledger so far this spring. Ramstein, meanwhile, is demonstrably vulnerable. The rebuilding Royals lost their season opener, taking a stunning 2-1 setback to upstart Vilseck on Saturday. And they’ll come into Saturday’s game with Lakenheath a day after meeting what figures to be a resurgent International School of Brussels squad.
Girls soccerPatch at Wiesbaden Saturday Both the Patch Panthers and Wiesbaden Warriors spent their Saturday beating up on lower-division opponents. This weekend won’t be so easy. Patch entered the season as a strong contender to get back to the European championship game; the Panthers beat Ramstein for the 2013 title and lost the rematch to the Royals in 2014. Even with Naples and Vicenza joining the division, the Panthers figured to be formidable. Saturday’s season opener served to confirm it. Patch blasted a competitive Hohenfels team 9-0 as five different Panthers scored goals and three scored two or more. Wiesbaden coasted for the second straight weekend while keeping a season-long shutout intact. The Warriors beat Ansbach 8-0 after opening their season March 14 with a 4-0 defeat of Black Forest Academy. Like Patch, Wiesbaden put five players in the scoring column. There’s a lot of soccer to play between this weekend and the European tournament, but even early-season encounters against divisional archrivals can swing seasons. Patch needs to reassert its strength in an expanding Division I field; Wiesbaden is still searching for its place in the upper echelon. Saturday holds an opportunity for one or the other to achieve that goal.