The GW men’s soccer team has not played an NCAA tournament game in 14 years, but the atmosphere at the Colonials’ first-round match Saturday will hardly be unfamiliar.
While other universities are boarding buses and planes to meet their opponents, the Colonials could feasibly take the Metro to their first-round game against American Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Eagles’ Reeves Field. GW students, however, can catch a free bus to the game, leaving from the Smith Center at noon.
“I think this is the best draw we could have hoped for,” GW senior midfielder Michael Goldman said. “We have the whole week to prepare here for the game.”
Not only will the turf be familiar, the opponents will be as well.
“We know each other very well,” American head coach Todd West said, adding that players from both teams train together over the summer and play on each other’s fields.
The teams last faced each other in competition in the 2001 D.C. College Cup, at which American emerged victorious after defeating the Colonials 1-0 at Georgetown. In this year’s cup, the two teams did not play each other, but each went 2-0.
The Eagles are looking forward to defending their undefeated turf Saturday. American is 3-0 in NCAA tournament play on its home field, but GW has had luck at Reeves field too, going undefeated at the 2002 College Cup.
“The atmosphere will help everyone playing,” Goldman said. “There will be huge crowds supporting both teams.”
American has the advantage in tournament experience. This is the Eagles’ second straight tournament appearance after being knocked out in the Sweet 16 last year by eventual NCAA champion North Carolina.
GW, on the other hand, will be making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1989. In their four previous trips to the NCAA’s (’74, ’77, ’78, ’89) the Colonials hold a 1-4 record. Still, the Eagles are not underestimating their opponents.
GW pulled off two upset victories to earn an automatic tournament bid while American lost to Lehigh in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament and had to sweat out the weekend waiting for an at-large bid.
“GW is a very talented team. They have Johannsson, who scored 19 goals this year, and Osborne, who scored 18 goals,” West said. “We hope to not let them see the goal too much in this game.”
Players the Colonials will want to keep away from their goal include forward Andrew Herman, who led American this season with 11 goals and 29 total points. Only a sophomore, Herman broke into American’s starting line-up late in 2001 to become the Patriot League Rookie of the Year.