Take a look at the San Diego State men's soccer schedule and there is one thing that might stand out to you.
The Aztecs have played nine matches this season, three on the road if you count a match at USD, down the road from Montezuma Mesa as an away game.
It is a schedule most coaches would probably like to have. And chances are Aztecs coach Lev Kirshner is not complaining.
Less travel, more time to focus on preparing a team for conference play. After a 5-1-2 “preseason” record, the Aztecs begin PAC-12 play Friday when Stanford visits the SDSU Sports Deck where the Aztecs are unbeaten (3-0-3).
It is the first match of the Pac-12 schedule this year. Cal plays at No. 25 UCLA and No. 22 Washington at Oregon State, both on Friday to make up the Conference games for the South Division this week. Each team will play each other twice (home and away) to complete the regular season schedule.
The Aztecs head into their match against the Cardinal having played to a scoreless draw after double overtime to Central Arkansas last week. That ended SDSU's four-match win streak. The team’s only loss came against rival USD in one of the three road games. The Aztecs had wins at Oral Roberts and at Houston Baptist during the other two away matches.
Kirshner's team won't be on the road again until Oct. 7 when SDSU travels to Oregon State.
But first, there is Stanford (3-4-1), a team that is coming off a 2-1 win at Vermont after beating Harvard 1-0 on Sept. 23. The Cardinal are led by junior midfielder Adam Jahn, who headed in the winning goal against Harvard. He was named Pac-12 player of the week for the week of Sept. 20-26.
Stanford is coming to San Diego hoping to leave with some points. After all, the Cardinal perhaps have the roughest start to a conference schedule. Stanford plays at SDSU, then at UCLA before heading home to face Cal and Washington.
UCLA and Cal are regarded as the favorites to win the conference. The Aztecs close the season at home against the Bruins in what could be a game that could decide the conference champion.
A conference championship is the objective. Playing a handful of home matches before conference competition can only help.
Time will tell if the strategy has worked. The first test begins with Stanford.
Other weekend local college soccer matches include the SDSU Women's team hosting New Mexico on Friday in both teams’ Mountain West Conference opener.
The Aztecs (5-4-2) return to action after a week without playing a match. The rest might have been needed as coach Mike Friesen's team is scheduled to take on No. 16 Santa Clara on Sunday.
New Mexico (6-4-2) and Santa Clara (5-1-4) are two of the toughest teams the Aztecs will face this season. The Lobos were picked to win the conference along with the Aztecs. San Diego State was selected to win the league championship after earning 34 points and four first-place votes. New Mexico was voted second with 33 points and three first-place votes.
The Aztecs are looking to break a two-game losing streak after losing 1-0 last week against UC Santa Barbara at home after a questionable foul led to a Gauchos penalty kick in the 54th minute.
After facing New Mexico at home and Santa Clara on the road, it won't get any easier for the Aztecs.
It's only home match in a span of seven games is an Oct. 16 game against Boise State. The Aztecs finish conference play at Wyoming, Air Force and UNLV before heading into the Mountain West Conference Championship Tournament.