Last year, the Georgetown men’s soccer team was 2-7-0 heading into October. This season the Hoyas are entering their second full month of play with a record of 7-2-1. What’s different?
“Last year, we were on the wrong side of a lot of 1-0 losses,” says head coach Brian Wiese. “This year, we’ve been able to flip that.”
While an improved attack deserves some credit for the turnaround, the Hoyas’ dominant back four has been the key to winning those close games. The Georgetown defense started the season with five consecutive shutouts and has maintained that high level of play, posting a 0.40 goals against average, ninth in the country and second in the Big East.
Lately, though, the defense has shown some vulnerability relative to their perfect start, and that isn’t acceptable to Wiese.
“Our goalkeepers were called on a little bit more than normal,” he said before last weekend’s games. “I would like our boys in front of them to make it easier for them.” Georgetown emerged from those two contests with a win and a tie, allowing only one goal.
The defense does have an excuse for the recent lapse—two weeks ago the team lost sophomore Ibu Otegbeye for the season after he suffered a torn ACL in practice.
“You lose a kid and it changes the dynamics of things,” Wiese said. “Defending has as much to do with chemistry as it does with great individuals.
“Obviously losing Ibu was devastating to the team,” sophomore defender Mostafa Ebrahimnejad said. Ebrahimnejad, a converted midfielder, is the defender who has stepped up to fill the hole, starting in the five games since Otegbeye’s injury. He brings a different style of play to the defense, but the team has been able to adjust.
“Mostafa jumped right back in [following the injury],” junior defender and co-captain Mark Zeman said. “I don’t think we’re struggling anymore than we would have been.”
The 25th-ranked Hoyas will need the defenders to be on top of their game as they travel to South Bend on Sunday to take on eighth-ranked Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish were ranked as high as third in the nation before falling to Louisville last weekend. The defeat should only provide further motivation for what is already one of top offenses in the nation. Their scorching attack has averaged 2.44 goals per game, by far the best in the Big East. Three of the conference’s top five scorers play for the Irish, including junior Dave Donohue, previously named National Player of the Week.
Unfortunately for the Hoyas, they’ll have to worry about more than just the Notre Dame offense. The Irish defense is just as formidable as its attack, posting three straight shutouts before the Louisville loss.
“They’re one of the best teams in the country,” Wiese said. “They have no weaknesses at any position on the field.”
But the Hoyas have plenty of motivation of their own. Last year, the Hoyas played the then-ninth ranked Irish to a 0-0 tie in their regular season finale.
“Obviously it’s hard to ignore the fact that it’s Notre Dame,” Zeman said. “But we’re not going to be intimidated. We’re a different team than we were in the past.”