With heavy winds bearing down on Shaw Field, the No. 14-seed Georgetown men’s soccer team (14-4-2) conceded a late game-winning own goal with just 14 seconds remaining in double overtime to SMU (17-2-1) in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32. SMU was led by a goal from freshman forward/midfielder Nicky Hernandez and Georgetown junior defender Brendan McDonough’s own goal, while freshman midfielder Jacob Montes scored for the Blue & Gray.
The 2-1 defeat ends a turnaround year for the Hoyas, who more than doubled their 2016 win total en route to the program’s second Big East Championship.
“It really hurts because I think this is a team that thinks they could be in the College Cup.” Georgetown head coach Brian Wiese said following the loss.
The Hoyas began the game facing the wind, which stifled numerous clearance attempts on the defensive end. SMU nearly capitalized in the sixth minute with a six-yard free header by sophomore forward Garrett McLaughlin off of a dangerous cross, but the attempt was directed straight at Georgetown junior goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski.
After the early scare, the Hoyas turned up the pressure and controlled play, generating numerous offensive chances. The offensive aggression paid off in the 18th minute, when senior midfielder Declan McCabe played a low cross across the goal to a sliding Montes at the far post for the tap-in goal.
From there, the teams exchanged possession, but the Mustangs were unable to generate any good looks at goal. Of their eight first half shots, only the header in the sixth minute was accurate. In contrast, the Hoyas found the target on four of five first half shots, forcing SMU redshirt senior goalkeeper Michael Nelson to make several saves.
In the second half, both teams increased their offensive pace and defensive pressure, as Georgetown looked for its second goal and SMU looked for the equalizer. Just two minutes into the half, freshman midfielder/defender Foster McCune redirected a corner kick from senior midfielder Christopher Lema just wide of the net. Then, Lema’s 60th minute free kick from 30 yards out just missed the top corner of the net.
“I felt that we were really pushing [for a second goal]… Yeah, we had a lot of chances to put it away,” Montes said.
Injuries to junior midfielder Ethan Lochner and sophomore midfielder/defender Dylan Nealis forced Georgetown to make unexpected substitutions in the second half, with freshman defender Sean O’Hearn, who started 17 games this season, replacing Nealis and Montes playing extended minutes to make up for Lochner’s injury.
Despite generating seven shots in the second half, the Hoyas were only able to put one on frame, limiting their chances of extending the lead. In the 82nd minute, the Mustangs took advantage of the Blue & Gray’s inefficiency by winning a corner kick after a nicely executed counter attack. Off of the corner, a failed clearance by the Georgetown defense led to a crossing chance over the top for SMU. Marcinkowski slipped inside the six yard box when the cross was initially delivered, and the wind caused the ball to fall much quicker than it normally would have. Hernandez was first to the ball, heading the ball in from six yards out.
“We were in a really good spot to get the second goal, but we don’t execute, they take the ball down field and get the set piece,” Wiese said. “SMU is very good on set pieces and very, very good in transition.”
“I should have done better,” Marcinkowski said of the goal.
With the score knotted at 1 apiece and time winding down, both teams continued to press for a game-winning goal. Marcinkowski was forced to make a difficult save in the 86th minute on another SMU counter, and the Georgetown defense handled the resulting corner. In the 89th minute, however, it seemed the Hoyas had found the winner. McCune played a low cross to freshman forward Derek Dodson at the near post, but his attempt hit the post. The ball fell to McCabe, who shot his rebound attempt toward the center of the goal, but the SMU defenders were able to clear the ball off the line despite their keeper being out of position.
A deadlocked score after 90 minutes of soccer forced overtime. In the first overtime period, Georgetown played several through balls over the top to McCabe and sophomore forward Achara down the left side. Both players forced saves from Nelson, who showed composure despite Georgetown’s attacking prowess, as did Montes with a swerving effort from distance.
In the second overtime period, SMU won three corners and recorded four shots, while the Hoyas did not win any corners and recorded two shots. Dodson’s attempt in the 103rd minute was saved by Nelson, and McCabe’s 107th minute attempt was blocked. In the final minute, McLaughlin’s shot attempt was saved by Marcinkowski. Georgetown looked to push the ball up field, but SMU regained possession down the right side with just under half a minute to play. A dangerous cross was played towards goal, which Marcinkowski came off of his line to handle, but McDonough had already committed to clear the ball with his head. With Marcinkowski off his line and McDonough heading the ball towards goal, there was no one to stop the ball from finding the back of the net for the SMU win.
“The ball just got knocked back out. He served it back in, it was a good ball. Brendan was going for it, I was going for it. That kind of happens,” Marcinkowski said. “I don’t think it’s that strange that we caused the own goal. Even on the first one, I should have done better. It just shows how good our defense has been. In order for other teams to score I think we’ve had to make a mistake, I guess. It’s just a testament to how good my back line has been all year.”
SMU will move on to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament and play the winner of No. 3-seed North Carolina (14-3-1) and UNC Wilmington (12-7-0). Georgetown will enter the long offseason retaining all but four players on the current roster.
“SMU played really well and deserve to be going through just as much as we do,” Marcinkowski said. “They’ve had a stellar season.”
“[We’ll] have to use [the loss]as real motivation for the offseason, which starts tomorrow,” Wiese said.
Image Credits: Georgetown Sports Information