The game Saturday night between UMBC and Loyola features two of the top goal scorers in Division I men's soccer, but the Retrievers' Pete Caringi III and the Greyhounds' Larry Ndjock don't think the spotlight should be on them.
"You can't compare [us]," Caringi said. "I don't know much about him; he might not know much about me. It doesn't really matter what we do. It's about how our teams finish at the end of the year. That's really all that matters. Right now, I'm not really focused on me versus him."
Added Ndjock (pronounced EN-jock): "I don't like to compare myself to other forwards because I try to look at myself and improve every day and try to find things I can do better. But, of course, sometimes you look at the statistics and stuff, and you look at how other teams are playing, especially teams that you're going to play. I think he's done well so far."
UMBC travels to Loyola for the 7 p.m. game Saturday at Ridley Athletic Complex with a 6-0-0 record. The Retrievers are No. 21 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and College Soccer News polls, as well as No. 17 in the Top Drawer Soccer rankings.
Loyola, meanwhile, is 5-0-1 — its best start since 2008. The Greyhounds earned votes in the latest NSCAA poll and sit just outside the Top 25.
But the individual play of Caringi and Ndjock adds an additional storyline to the in-state matchup.
Caringi (Calvert Hall), a senior, leads the country in points (18) and is tied with Delaware freshman midfielder Guillermo Delgado for first in goals (eight). Ndjock, a sophomore from Berlin, Germany, is tied with Cal State Northridge junior forward Sagi Lev-Ari for third in the nation in goals (seven) and ranks fourth in points (14).
Major League Soccer recently mentioned both forwards as college players to watch. Scouts from FC Dallas have watched both players this fall, and scouts from Sporting Kansas City and D.C. United studied Caringi and Ndjock, respectively.
Retrievers coach Pete Caringi Jr., who coaches his son, and Loyola coach Mark Mettrick both remarked at how unusual it is that a local regular-season game will boast two of the top goal scorers in the country.
"I think the fans that come out to watch the game will watch two of the better forwards in the country and two of the better goal scorers," Caringi said. "They both put the ball in the net, and I've been really impressed with [Ndjock]. He's someone who, if you're not aware of where he is on the field, he'll burn you. It's rare that you get two highly acclaimed forwards this early in the year."
Added Mettrick: "It is very unique. They're both on great paces in terms of their seasons. So hopefully, they'll keep it going. But yeah, it's rare to have two players like that so close together."
Physically, Caringi and Ndjock are different. At 6 feet 1 and 175 pounds, Caringi — who scored a career-high 14 goals last season — is a weapon in the air and has developed an instinct in the box. The 5-9, 172-pound Ndjock, who scored 13 goals in 2012, can play physically and uses his speed to his advantage.
Both players acknowledge that they rely on their teammates to succeed.
Caringi, who had 16 goals and five assists for the Baltimore Bohemians in the Mid-Atlantic Division en route to being named the Young (Under-21) Player of the Year last summer, said he has benefited from a midfield of senior Kadeem Dacres and juniors Geaton Caltabiano and Stephen Ho.
"Our team success is kind of helping me out with my success," Caringi said. "I like to see myself as a good player, but I've become better with my teammates around me helping me out and giving me chances to score. Our midfield has been great this year when it comes to assisting me and helping me out."
Ndjock, who plays forward in the offense's 1-4 alignment, said he has thrived offensively while playing with several Greyhounds teammates he singled out.
"We have a really talented and really motivated offensive five," Ndjock said. "We just brought in a freshman from Germany, Laurin Vogel. We have [senior forward] Stephen Dooley, [sophomore midfielder] Dominic Marshall, [junior forward] Connor Thompson and myself. I think that's a really dangerous attack, and without those guys, I couldn't get into situations to score goals. So I really have to thank them for their support and their passes. I just try to finish the best that I can and it's been great so far."
Caringi and Ndjock won't be matched up against each other Saturday night, but both figure to draw a lot of eyes. Those eyes won't be limited to those in the stands.
"Both defenses will be aware of us," Ndjock said. "I think UMBC's defense is going to have respect for me just as our defense is going to have respect for him. So I feel like it's not necessarily me versus him. It's UMBC versus Loyola, with two of the best strikers in the nation right now."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun