Men’s soccer at the NCAA Tournament: Penalty kick ends GW’s surprising run

The GW men’s soccer team’s surprise postseason run ended with an American goal in the 43rd minute of the first round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday. Despite strong runs in the second half, the Colonials were not able to make up the deficit and fell to their cross-town rival 1-0 at the Eagles’ Reeves Field.

Eagles defender Michael Grinsfelder was awarded a penalty in the waning minutes of the first half when a Colonial defender appeared to clip him on a run on goal. Shawn Kuykendall blasted the subsequent penalty shot into the lower left corner of the net, right under the diving GW goalkeeper Eric Lund.

Senior Matt Osborne said that while the loss was disappointing, his team still exceeded expectations, something they had been doing all season.

“I think a lot of people expected us to come here and be overwhelmed because they are a really good team,” he said. “But we clamped down on them well defensively and limited them to almost no chances. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.”

The Colonials nearly tied the game in the second half as their intensity increased, creating several scoring opportunities. After near goals by forward Osborne and defender junior Jason Popik, GW’s most promising shot came in the last minute of the game when junior Fabio Andrade took a pass from sophomore Matt Miller and fired a solid shot to the lower right corner.

But American goalkeeper Michael Behonick, who had seven saves on the day, saved the goal and the game, much to the disappointment of the large contingent of GW fans. With a free bus ride provided by the Student Activities Center, GW students comprised the majority of the 1,876 fans in attendance.

GW senior Michael Goldman said he was pleased to play his final collegiate game in that atmosphere.

“I was so lucky to end in front of all my friends and family,” the Bethesda native said. “The support was great – I really couldn’t ask for anything more. We just came out a little short. You can’t always come out on top.”

The Colonials applied more pressure late in the game, taking 10 second-half shots to American’s three. Osborne and junior forward Arnar Johannsson, both tied as the seventh leading scorers in the nation, had four shots each on the day. Overall, the Colonials outshot the Eagles 14-10.

With the win, the Eagles will travel to Maryland to face the top-ranked Terrapins Wednesday. American will be searching for their second-straight appearance in the Sweet Sixteen, adding to their numerous postseason accolades. The victory was the Eagles’ sixth straight tournament win.

In contrast, the game marked the first time in 14 years that the Colonials reached the NCAA Tournament and the first time in school history that they won the Atlantic 10 Tournament, a sign, Osborne said, that marks the program’s increasing success.

“We always aim to make it to the A-10 championship and maybe to win a game,” he said,”but to get here is really the thing to build a program on, and they can only do better in the future. I’m really happy with how we did.”

Overall, team members said they were pleased with their accomplishments this season, even after the tough loss.

“The lads are really proud of themselves this season,” Osborne said. “I’m really proud to be a part of this team, and I’m sure George (Lidster) will say the same thing. So by no means is this a disappointment, because the program can only build from here.”

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