The post was written by Hatchet reporter Scott Nover.
After dropping their match last Sunday against UMass, the men’s soccer team was unable to make a statement in their first ever conference matchup versus George Mason, finding themselves on the wrong end of a shutout 2-0 Sunday.
George Mason dominated early on, maintaining possession for most of the first half while powering 11 first-half shots. The Patriots spent most of their time on offense, challenging the Colonials defenders every step of the way. In the 19th minute, a ball from GMU’s Timi Mulgrew found star forward Jannick Eckenrode, who promptly placed the ball in the left side of the net past goalie Luke Farrell.
“The first goal gave us a bit of a wake-up call. Our older guys started turning on,” goalie Luke Farrell said.
However, the defense’s success since Farrell’s implementation may finally be plateauing as A-10 teams both adapt to his style of play and continue to attack aggressively as conference playoffs draw near.
The GW defense improved after GMU’s initial goal, as the Colonials were able to stop attacks before any more could result in goals. However, the GMU defense was seemed to be even more determined, stifling almost every Colonial attempt to simply gain control of the ball on the Patriot side of the field.
Although the Colonials failed to put any balls past George Mason goalie Steffen Krau, their quality of play increased in the second half. Ball possession, control and passing all improved and the squad functioned as a cohesive whole for the first time all game.
Many of the problems the midfield faced – winning headers, completing passes, moving the ball up – eroded or diminished in second-half play.
Despite a vast improvement in play, the Colonials were pressed with the looming threat of an expiring clock.
In the final five minutes of the game, GW pressed forward, looking to attack, looking for opportunities to break and tie up the game. Unfortunately for the Colonials, the style of play left holes in the defense. Mulgrew, who tallied an assist earlier in the game, broke through GW’s last line of defense, drew the keeper out, and powered a shot into the left side of the net. The goal in the 90th minute gave George Mason a final 2-0 victory.
“On the second goal, it’s the risk you take when we’re pushing to equalize,” Farrell said. “It’s difficult, but that one you gotta let go a little bit. It’s always disappointing, especially at home against our local rivals.”
With the win Sunday, George Mason moves into first place, tied with Saint Louis with fourteen points apiece. GW, on the other hand, has fallen to eighth place, with a 2-2-2 record and eight points on the table.
In order to qualify for the A- 10 Championships, GW must maintain their eighth place standing. Though the road may not exactly be easy, the Colonials have full confidence in their ability to put wins on the board next weekend.
To bounce back in the second half was a “big bonus for me,” head coach Craig Jones. “It shows we have some resilience. It will bode well for next weekend, knowing that it’s a must-win weekend.”
GW will take on Saint Joseph’s on Friday, followed by a meeting with La Salle next Sunday. In order to gain a bid into the tournament, GW must win both games.
“We’re still in complete control of going to the A-10 tournament,” Farell said. “I know we will as long as we get our results next week.”