In the blistering heat on Shaw Field, the Georgetown men’s soccer team (1-0-0, Big East) claimed a 3-1 victory over rival Syracuse (0-1-0, ACC) Friday afternoon to start the season victorious. After a scoreless first half, junior forward Derek Dodson had the breakthrough three minutes after the intermission, but the Orange quickly responded with a goal from the penalty spot. In the 74th minute, though, the Hoyas pulled away with a pair of goals in the span of 1:05, and held on the rest of the way.
“It’s incredible to get a win on the first day,” graduate student Ethan Lochner, who assisted on the final goal, said. “We’re still in the building process, but at the end of the day, getting a win just starts us off right. Against ‘Cuse, even better.”
The first significant chance of the game came 15 minutes in. After a Syracuse corner, the ensuing Georgetown breakaway led to junior midfielder Jacob Montes taking possession in the center of the pitch. Using a series of creative dribbles, Montes weaved through the Orange defense before finding himself one-on-one with sophomore goalkeeper Christian Miesch. He placed a shot to the right of Miesch, but the post denied what would have been a spectacular goal.
“Montes’ run down the middle would have been the best goal I’ve ever seen on Shaw Field if that had gone in instead of hitting the post,” head coach Brian Wiese commented after the match.
In the 21st minute, the Hoyas kept the pressure on with another close opportunity. After a strong tackle, junior defender Rio Hope-Gund sent a soaring lofted through ball across the pitch to Lochner, who then measured a pinpoint cross to senior forward Riley Strassner. Strassner’s header was aimed low and to Miesch’s right, but the Syracuse keeper made a fantastic diving save to keep it scoreless.
Despite losing the possession battle, the Orange showed signs of life in the first half including a moment where Hope-Gund made a hard tackle on sophomore midfielder Ryan Raposo inside the box, but no penalty was awarded. Overall, Georgetown had five more shots than Syracuse in the first half, but nothing to show for it.
The scoreless tie would be broken soon after the break. In the 47th minute, junior midfielder Paul Rothrock, a Notre Dame transfer making his Hoya debut, received a through ball up the middle of the Syracuse defense and was suddenly in on goal. After taking a couple touches to draw Miesch out of his net, Rothrock calmly slid the ball over to a trailing Dodson, who scored into an open goal for the season’s opening tally.
The lead would not last long, however. Just three minutes later, sophomore goalkeeper Giannis Nikopolidis came out to defend a lofted ball into the box and collided with Syracuse freshman forward Luther Archimede. The ref blew his whistle, and Raposo stepped up to take the potential game-tying penalty. He went bottom left, while Nikopolidis dove right, and the game was knotted at one.
Over the next 25 minutes, Wiese made a series of substitutions, trying to find the right formula to win the game. With senior forward Achara and junior midfielder/defender Foster McCune both out with injuries, Wiese used 18 players on the day overall, including several freshmen and lesser used players in 2018. And the players were thrilled to see so many of their teammates out on the pitch.
“This team is probably the deepest team I’ve ever seen,” Lochner said. “It’s hot, it’s the beginning of the season. We have everyone stepping up, doing something, putting in tackles, putting in assists, putting in goals. We have sophomores coming in that didn’t play as much their freshman year getting assists, getting goals. It’s incredible, we have an incredibly deep team.”
JB Fischer, who appeared in just six games as a junior last season, wound up being a critical part of the victory late in the game. After hounding the Orange defense with relentless attacks, the Hoyas found themselves with a corner in the 74th minute. Sophomore midfielder Zach Riviere sent it in and Fischer rose up for the header, placing it perfectly past Miesch to put the Hoyas back on top.
Just a minute and five seconds later, the Hoyas were right back at it. Lochner received the ball down the right flank and slowly dribbled his way past Orange defenders before softly placing a lofted through pass in front of freshman midfielder Dante Polvara who was darting towards the box. Despite a wayward first touch, Polvara was able to evade Miesch’s dive for the ball, and found the back of the net for the game-sealing goal.
“Obviously, it’s great,” Polvara said of scoring on his debut. “We’ve been putting in a lot of work over the last few weeks. There’s such a good bond between every teammate, whether it’s me with fifth-years or me with the freshmen, everyone was super happy for me, so it’s a great feeling.”
Georgetown sat back for the last 15 minutes, allowing the Syracuse pressure to arrive and be dealt with. A couple of chances fell to senior forward Massimo Ferrin, but none truly tested Nikoplidis, and the game finished 3-1.
“I think this team has flashes of genius in it,” Wiese said, reflecting on the win. “You have to work, you have to battle for those bits of genius to pop out. And you see these little things, some of the moments we have are really fun.”
The Hoyas return to Shaw on Monday for a matchup with Temple at 1:00 p.m. ET. Live stats and a stream are available at guhoyas.com. For updates and continued coverage of all Georgetown fall sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.