After winning the Big East regular season title and the tournament final last weekend against Providence, the 3-seed Georgetown men’s soccer team continued its postseason brilliance on Sunday afternoon with a 5-0 rout of Pittsburgh in the NCAA Tournament Second Round. The Hoyas came out of the gates firing on all cylinders at Shaw Field and went up 3-0 after just 20 minutes of play. Senior defender Dylan Nealis notched his first career brace, while junior attacker Derek Dodson and junior midfielder Foster McCune also got on the scoreboard before the final whistle.
“I think there was real urgency to apply pressure,” Head Coach Brian Wiese said postgame. “There was real urgency to handle the details, to not concede a goal. If you’re going to try to win a national championship, you have to be good on both sides and whether you win five-nothing or one-nothing, you need the nothing.”
After some early pressure from the unseeded Panthers (10-8-2, 4-3-1 ACC), the Hoyas (16-1-3, 7-0-2 Big East) put together a long string of possession that culminated in the game’s first goal just five minutes in. Freshman midfielder Dante Polvara found Dodson at the top of Pitt’s box, and he left it for Nealis, who was making a strong run into the area. Nealis took the shot first time from near the touchline and found the angle to lace it past junior goalkeeper Arie Ammann.
“I saw [Dodson] was one-on-one,” Nealis said, “so I always like to do an overlap run just to give him an extra option. He played me and I just put it on frame, near post, and it happened to go in.”
The Hoyas kept their foot on the gas, as sophomore forward Zach Riviere’s effort in the 9th minute was on target but not powerful enough to challenge Ammann in the net. Four minutes later though, they doubled their tally with a stunning goal from Dodson for his ninth on the season. Junior midfielder Jacob Montes sent Dodson towards the box with a through ball. Dodson took a couple touches towards the left side and then completely changed directions, catching the two Panther defenders off guard. His move created enough space to curl a shot towards the far right post that Ammann could not reach, giving Georgetown the 2-0 early lead.
“I saw the right side center back step high, so I made the run in behind him and Montes slipped the pass,” Dodson said. “The number four did a good job of coming over to cover my left foot, so I didn’t really have a shot there. I cut back and when they both kept running, I was like ‘Alright well, I’ll just try to shoot this far post.’ I caught it pretty well and it just bent in.”
In the 18th minute, Dodson nearly scored another goal after stealing the ball from a Pitt defender in his own box, but his powerful shot was directed right at Ammann who made a sure-handed stop. However, two minutes later the onslaught continued, as junior midfielder Paul Rothrock sent in a dangerous free kick from the Pitt touchline. No Hoya got a solid touch on the ball, but it took a massive deflection off a Panther defender and went directly into the back of the net, giving Georgetown a comfortable 3-0 margin early on.
“That’s really what we were focusing on for this game, coming out, really setting the tone and getting the boys going early so that our subs could come on and set the tempo,” Dodson said of the game in which he had to take on a larger offensive role with senior forward Achara sidelined due to injury.
Over the remainder of the first half, the game took on a more physical quality as the teams combined for three yellow cards in a seven-minute span. Notably, Georgetown’s defense held strong, allowing just two Panthers shots before halftime, and none from the team’s leading scorer, junior forward Edward Kizza.
“It wasn’t really dealing with Edward [Kizza]. It was more making sure that he’s not getting the service he needs to be dangerous which I think we really did,” Wiese said of the team’s defensive strategy. “He wasn’t getting the ball in the situations that have made him so dangerous this year which is credit to our initial pressure. We were working really hard to make sure they weren’t able to find him.”
In the second half, Georgetown kept the pressure on, looking to increase the margin. Junior defender Rio Hope-Gund and freshman forward Will Sands each had shots nearly find the back of the net in the opening 20 minutes, before the Hoyas eventually found a fourth. After a shot from Sands careened off the left post, sophomore midfielder Jackson Walti did a poor job of clearing, sending the ball right to Nealis outside the box. Nealis took a couple of touches before lofting the ball over Ammann who was out of position and could not stop it from floating into the net.
“I don’t why [Ammann] was so high. I took a quick look up and said ‘Why not?’ and went for it,” Nealis said of his second goal on the afternoon.
In the 68th minute, the Panthers almost got on the board with a free kick from freshman midfielder Valentin Noel that sailed just past the top-right corner of the goal. Despite a couple of Pitt chances, it was Georgetown who grabbed the final goal in the 82nd minute. McCune was perfectly positioned off a rebound and tipped it past Ammann for his second goal of the season as a drained Panther side looked on. A missed penalty from Dodson in the 86th minute did little to raise their spirits, as the result had been secured for quite some time.
After a dominant display where they outshot the Panthers 20-4 and held possession for the vast majority of the game, the Hoyas now look ahead to the Third Round next Sunday where they will take on the winner of Louisville and UC Davis’ matchup this afternoon.
“From 2012, through this year, with the exception of 2016, we’ve had a team that every year, we walk out here and I think we can win the whole thing,” Wiese said. “We have to believe it’s our time. We’ve been the 3rd seed. We’ve played 23 consecutive postseason home games. But what we haven’t put together is that magical run of five games.”