Pirates on the Pitch: What Brought Seton Hall Men’s Soccer to the Big East Tournament

In the 2020-21 season, head coach Andreas Lindberg has turned Seton Hall Men’s Soccer team into a national powerhouse. The Big East Men’s Coaching Staff of the Year was able to lead the team to their first Big East tournament in 9 years. When taking a look at the statistics, it’s easy to see a storyline of defensive excellence and offensive efficiency. 

This season, the Pirates formation has adapted the shape of their team from a 4-3-3 into a 4-4-2. Switching to this formation stretches the midfield with two wide men to control the play down the offensive wing. In addition, dropping an extra person into the midfield changes the attack into a two-striker formation. This is different from their 4-3-3 because it provides the wide midfielders with two attacking options when moving the ball inside. Having two supporting midfielders in the center of the park allows for the Pirates to control the tempo of the game and connect the play from back to front and side-to-side. 

On the defensive side of the ball, the 4-4-2 allows for the two wing-backs to stick to a more defensive role, as there are two wide midfielders that can take care of the attacking play. Along with defensive upgrades this past season, the Pirates’ back line keeping its shape is crucial in making it harder for the opposition to find a clear-cut chance, and it has proved successful this season with Seton Hall’s opponents only getting 38 of their 122 shots on goal. 

While Andreas Nota’s 81 percent save percentage is a four percent improvement from his previous campaign, the shots he is facing are fewer in number and lower in quality.  

His growth as a shot-stopper, paired with defensive improvements, has come together to form a water-tight team that excels in the accumulation of clean sheets, six this year compared to just two last year. The Pirates have played 11 games at the time of writing, compared to 16 last year. 

The defensive growth of the Pirates is impressivethey have dropped the opposition’s shots per game from 14 to 11 and nearly halved their goals per gameAlong with an increase in offensive production, Seton Hall is a tough prospect for opposing teams.  

Although Seton Hall’s shots per game have decreased from 12.9 per game to 12.3, that has not resulted in few goals or assistsThe 20-21 season has seen the Pirates increase their goals per game to 1.45 from 1.38 and seen their shots on goal percentage increase nearly six percent from 41.5 percent to 47.4 percent. 

The 4-4-2 formation allows the two forwards to play with a higher line on the opposing defenders in the center of the field, where they can either make a run in behind or hold up the play for the midfielders to catch up and for the wide men to get ahead on the flanks. The beauty of this formation is that the team is given so many options for play, it allows players to be creative with their movement and passing. 

Although the two top goal scorers of last season, Carlton McKenzie and Stephen Elias, are no longer with the teamthe rest of the squad has elevated their game with a greater spread of goals and assists. 

Another major factor that has played part in the Pirates’ success is the threat that they have posed from the set-piece. Whether it be off a corner or a free-kick, Seton Hall has scored from a set-piece in six of their eleven games this season. On top of that, five of those six set-piece goals were either game-tying or game-winning goals, including this one by junior Maurice Williams vs UConn.


Furthermore, conference play has seen the rise of JP Marin and James Boote, both involved in four goals over the eight games. Their contributions are critical for a team that had a losing record both overall and in conference play last year. 

With the Big East Tournament on the horizon, look for either of those two men to get involved or the team’s top scorer, CJ Tibbling, to add another goal to his previous four. Should the games become a grind, look for the Pirates to pull away on spectacular defensive play.