Returning from a successful two-game stretch in California, the No. 5 Georgetown men’s soccer team (5-0-0, Big East) extended their hot start to the season Saturday afternoon with a confident 4-1 win over UConn (2-3-0, American). Georgetown took the lead early at Shaw Field and increased it to two before the intermission. The Huskies showed signs of life with a tally in the second half, but the Hoya offense continued to click and soon put the game out of reach.
“We had a few lapses of focus, but I thought we had an overall good game,” junior forward Derek Dodson, who scored the fourth and final goal, said after the game. “Putting four up on UConn is always a good thing.”
The Hoyas dominated possession and shots in the first half, and their first chance of the game came just two minutes in. Junior midfielder Paul Rothrock, starting on the left wing, sent in a dangerous cross towards the box, but no Georgetown player could get a foot on it and the Huskies cleared. Four minutes later, UConn had their closest chance in the first half. After a brief scramble in Georgetown’s box, the ball eventually came in the air to junior defender Robin Lapert. Lapert took the volley shot from outside the box and beat sophomore goalkeeper Giannis Nikopolodis, nearly scoring the wondergoal, but the ball clanked off the crossbar and the Hoyas got it away.
In the 11th minute, Georgetown found the breakthrough off a free kick taken by Rothrock, who found senior defender Dylan Nealis alone on the right side of the box. Nealis directed a low cross towards the center and freshman midfielder Dante Polvara was able to slide in and tap the ball into the back of the net.
“We definitely have a few set piece plays we always draw up before in training,” Nealis explained after the match. “I recognized I was one-v-one outside, so I just told Paul [Rothrock] to lob it up for me and it ended up in the net.”
Georgetown kept the pressure on after the opener and nearly doubled their tally in the 35th minute. When UConn sophomore goalkeeper Gianluca Catalano dove out of his goal to try and clear a dangerous ball in the box, he left the net wide open. The ball came to freshman forward Will Sands, but he was unable to convert as the Husky defenders were able to block the attempt.
Three minutes later, however, the Hoyas would not be denied. After a few dribbles to free himself near the right corner of the box, senior forward Jack Beer curled a left-footed effort into the far corner of the net, just beyond Catalano’s outstretched arms. Postgame, Beer’s striking partner, Dodson, spoke highly of Georgetown’s dangerous attack so far this season.
“I think it’s really dynamic and fluid,” Dodson said. “I think the front six are really starting to click together and we’re all just really happy to be around each other, playing tight spaces, and trying to make something special happen.”
But UConn would not go away quietly, and the Huskies got a goal back early into the second half. Sophomore midfielder Felix Metzler found a pocket of space just outside of Georgetown box and fired a blistering shot across the face off goal, beating Nikopolidis to the far corner. After conceding, the Hoyas played more tentatively for the next segment of the game, allowing UConn more possession and a few opportunities.
“We haven’t really played a full 90 minutes yet,” Georgetown head coach Brian Wiese said after his team’s shaky start to the second half. “All of our games, we’ve had these stretches where we’ve allowed teams to dictate and carry the flow of the play. A lot of it’s to UConn’s credit, but the challenge for our guys is can we find 90 minutes to grind a proper performance out.”
The Hoyas’ struggles would not last long though, and another goal in the 68th minute gave them a more comfortable margin to work with. Junior midfielder Jacob Montes got on the ball down the left side and, after some tight dribbling along the touchline to beat his defender, bent his shot at a sharp angle into the far corner of the net, beating Catalano for a 3-1 lead.
A minute later, the Huskies found a goal after a series of impressive give-and-go passes, but it was ruled offsides. The teams continued to press, and the play became more physical, but in the 80th minute, Georgetown put the match to rest. Junior defender Foster McCune found Nealis with space to work with down the right side. Nealis waited for his teammates to enter the box, then sent in a low cross towards the middle. Dodson beat his defender to the ball and calmly redirected it towards the bottom left corner. Catalano could not get to it in time and the Hoyas took a three-goal lead which they held onto for the remainder of the match.
This Friday, the Hoyas hit the road for their first conference test of the season against Butler (3-1-0, Big East) in Indianapolis, IN and Wiese hopes his team can ride their winning streak into what should be a tough battle.
“They’re very confident and I think they know how good they can be,” Wiese said of his squad. “But everything goes out the window when you’re playing a Big East game, it doesn’t matter who you play, and certainly a Big East game on the road. We’re going to have to be a little more resilient.”
Image Credits: John Picker/The Georgetown Voice