Men’s Soccer Gets First Conference Win Over DePaul

September 22, 2018

After beating No. 10 Duke (3-2-0, 0-1-0 ACC) on Tuesday, the Georgetown men’s soccer team (5-2-1, 1-1-0 Big East) pulled out an overtime victory over DePaul (4-5-0, 1-1-0 Big East) Friday afternoon, snatching a goal five minutes into the extra period. It was junior forward Achara slotting home the game-winner after a frustrating 90 minutes during which the Hoyas were always the aggressor, but failed to convert on countless chances. With this result, Georgetown moves to .500 in Big East play and 5-2-1 overall.

The Hoyas made an effort to get out on the front foot after falling to Xavier (3-0-3, 1-0-0 Big East) in their first Big East matchup of the season last week. They controlled possession from kick-off and sent the ball into the box frequently. By the fourth minute, they already had their first chance of the game as DePaul sophomore goalkeeper Drew Nuelle was called into action to save a near post header from sophomore forward Derek Dodson.

By the 11th minute, it seemed as if the Blue Demons were beginning to turn the tide as junior forward Zach El-Shafei fired a blistering long shot just left of the net. El-Shafei again threatened freshman goalkeeper Giannis Nikopolidis two minutes later, forcing him to make tough low save.

Despite these chances, Georgetown was able to lock down and control the flow of play in the first half, preventing DePaul from getting any shots off after the 13th minute. In the 30th minute, Achara had a good chance down the left side, but Nuelle was able to get down to the ground to stop the near post attempt.

The breakthrough finally came in the 42nd minute. With the Hoyas threatening in the final third, junior defender Dylan Nealis missed a shot, but it rebounded back to sophomore defender Rio Hope-Gund who made solid contact and fired the ball past Nuelle’s right side. This was Hope-Gund’s second goal in three games, an impressive feat given his position on the field.

“I think everyone is surprised to be honest. I’m not much of a goal scorer myself,” Hope-Gund said. “But I think I stay hungry on set pieces and I think that’s the most important thing. You go up for headers, you go up for second balls, and you’ve got to stay hungry; you’ve got to want the goal. That’s it.”

Head coach Brian Wiese was less surprised than most.

“Rio keeps finding ways to get productivity for us, which is not surprising if you know who he is,” Wiese said.

After the goal, the Hoyas were able to survive a couple of late first half corner kicks from the Blue Demons and went into the break up one. Despite the lead, head coach Brian Wiese wanted to see more out of his squad.

“I actually thought the first half was a really disappointing performance,” he said. “The field is heavy and they just played a really hard game on Tuesday night against Duke. We traveled back and they did very little, but they looked tired.”

That fatigue showed nine minutes into the second period, as the Hoyas were completely caught off guard by a Blue Demon counterattack following a corner. With only two Georgetown defenders back, DePaul was able to penetrate deep and senior midfielder Michael Mojarro attempted a chip shot over Nikopolidis. The shot was blocked, but rebounded off the crossbar right to the feet of El-Shafei who slotted in his first goal of the season.

After the score was evened, the game became a midfield battle with few chances created until the 75th minute when freshman forward Luke Kiley got on the end of a well placed cross by sophomore midfielder Chris Le, but sent it just wide left.

Four minutes later, Wiese put most of his starters back into the game after a lengthy rest, as the Hoyas looked to make a late push for the winning goal they thought they deserved.

“If you end up tying that game or losing that game, all you’re thinking is ‘Why on earth can’t we score goals?’ We’re creating a ton of chances,” Wiese said. “Our guys could have easily gotten into a really bad mental place saying ‘It was us. We should be winning. We should have won this game already.’ But they continued playing until the overtime when we got our goal.”

In the 85th minute, the Hoyas had another fantastic chance as Achara and Dodson got loose down the middle with only one Blue Demon defender back, but Achara failed to get a clean pass across the face of the keeper and a follow-up attempt by graduate student midfielder Matt Ledder was saved.

Georgetown would have to be patient and wait for the extra period to seal the match. Right away, the Hoyas took firm control of the overtime. In the 91st minute, senior midfielder Kyle Zajec sent in a corner kick and Nealis flew in for a powerful header that went just wide right.

Four minutes later, they would not be denied. DePaul could not cope with the unrelenting Georgetown pressure and after a strong run down the right side from senior midfielder Ethan Lochner, the ball came inside. After a scramble, it landed at Achara’s feet and he made no mistake for his fourth goal of the season and a critical game winner for the Hoyas.

“[This win] is huge, getting into Big East play,” Hope-Gund said. “We needed this win, we fought hard, we got it. Now we’re 1-1 [in the Big East] and we’ll keep pushing.”

Georgetown dominated in shot attempts, leading DePaul 29 to 5 in the category over the course of the match. Six shots came from Achara, while Dodson and Ledder each had five. Nikopolidis was forced to make just one save throughout the match. Afterwards, Wiese reflected on the win.

“At the end of the day, it’s three points which we really desperately needed,” he said. “I think if we had lost that game or tied, it would have been a really tough spot for us to have any hope of doing anything in the league. You’ve got to take care of your home games.”

Georgetown returns to action on Tuesday with a home matchup against No. 6 Louisville (4-1-1, 2-0-0 ACC). Kickoff is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. ET. For more updates on men’s soccer and other fall sports at Georgetown, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.

Aaron Wolf
Former Sports Executive and 2020 Georgetown College graduate. Enjoyer of OPS.

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