A debut, a game-winning goal and a conference player of the week award: all-in-all, a pretty successful 12 minutes on the field over the weekend for Ohio State’s Joao Ehlers.
Ehlers, a junior forward from São Paulo, Brazil, was named the Big Ten’s Co-Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in OSU’s two games in Wilmington, N.C., last weekend.
“It’s a great accomplishment for us, for me,” Ehlers said. “I just have to say thank you to all my teammates because without them, I would not get that award. I’m so thankful for all the help they gave to me.”
The award was earned for the most part because of Ehlers’ lone shot attempt of the weekend — an 18-yard hit that snuck past Elon’s goalkeeper for a 1-0 overtime victory. The win was the first of the 2014 campaign for the Buckeyes (1-0-3) after they opened the season with three consecutive draws.
“We’re delighted for him, it’s a great honor,” OSU coach John Bluem said. “The Big Ten conference is a very good conference, so if you have a player that’s recognized for an award like that, it’s good.”
Ehlers, though, seemed eager to share the credit for the goal with the other players on the field with him.
“It was an amazing play by my teammates. We always work together,” Ehlers said. “I had the opportunity to finish close to the goal and I got lucky, the ball went through the net.”
The OSU offense — which was shut out nine times in 2013 — can certainly find use for Ehlers’ scoring abilities now that he has emerged in the lineup. The forward missed the first two games of the season with a groin injury dating back to training camp.
“Joao is doing a good job coming back from injury, getting to play some minutes now,” Bluem said. “Hopefully he just gets better and better.”
After departing Brazil to go to school and play soccer in the United States, Ehlers began at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky. While he enjoyed some on-field success there — including 12 goals and six assists — the then-midfielder felt it was time to move on to a larger school following his second year.
“Coach Bluem asked me to come for a visit in March,” Ehlers said. “I was so amazed by the school. It’s a great place to be. From the first time I’ve been here, I was amazed by this place. I’m just so thankful for the opportunity given to me.”
Zach Mason, a junior midfielder, said he feels Ehlers’ addition to the offense has helped.
“He’s a creative player,” Mason said. “He’s been a little injured this preseason, but he stepped up and scored an important goal for us.
“We see it in training that he’s got some really good stuff, so hopefully he has that confidence now that he can play and he stays healthy for us.”
Bluem singled out Ehlers as a part of a “dynamic” group of three new faces on the team this season that he said will continue to progress and produce more scoring chances as the season wears on. The group also includes junior defender Kyle Culbertson, a double-transfer from Columbia and Akron, and freshman forward Marcus McCrary.
Ehlers shared the offensive player of the week honors with senior defender Patrick Doody of Indiana. Ehlers became the first OSU’s player to win the award since Austin McAnena in October 2012.
Ehlers hopes to build off that quick succe1ss at home Sunday against Northwestern. That game is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.