FAIRFAX, Va. – As the sky darkened and the lights glared, the men’s soccer team took the field in front of 383 energetic fans at George Mason Stadium in Fairfax, Va. The Colonials continued their strong play and stayed undefeated with a 2-1 victory over George Mason, in the first of two evening games GW will play this season. The win marks the first victory GW has posted over Mason in 11 meetings, with the Colonials’ last victory dating back to 1991.
The game started off with GW in control, as senior Joachim Walker tallied a goal just four and a half minutes into the first half, assisted by senior co-captain Trevor Martin.
Play remained even until the final 15 minutes of the first half, when Mason took control of the ball. While the Colonials defense and goalkeeper Derek Biss deflected an attack of shots, a header from Mason senior Francis McCardle gave the Patriots their only score of the game. McCardle was assisted by Karim Manneh, with the shot landing in the lower right hand corner of the goal.
“I thought we started off pretty well, and then I thought the second part of the first half we fell away a little bit after we scored the goal,” head coach George Lidster said. “Mason dominated. We weren’t very well organized at that moment, they were pressing and we were all over the place.”
The momentum belonged to Mason going into halftime, as the noise of the rambunctious crowd was in full effect.
“Our half-time talk (was about how we needed) to get the aggression back into the game,” Lidster said.
The talk proved effective, as the Colonials picked up the pace of the game in the early second half. GW was unable to convert shots into goals, however, until the 71st minute, when senior Arturo Pedroso, on an assist from sophomore Greg McKay, broke through a Mason defensive line to run the winning goal past the goalie.
“We came out and it was like a whole new team in the second half,” senior co-captain Matt Miller said. “We were just physical and we just dominated.”
Although the Patriots had scoring opportunities, GW defense and Biss remained strong, barring Mason from registering another goal.
With the win, the Colonials move to 3-0-1, the first winning streak the squad has had to begin a season in over five years, a particularly impressive feat as they still have yet to play at home. The winning record is not reminiscent of the team’s beginning to the 2004 season, which they started off 1-2-1 before dropping to 1-8-3 mid-way through the season.
Although the slow start to last season did not deter the team from later accomplishments, the Colonials know the necessity of starting this season out strong, especially with the difficult schedule they face during A-10 conference play, which begins at Dayton in early October.
Despite the great start, the team still has work to do.
“We need to work on our organization and shape of the team, and scoring goals,” Lidster said. “We still find it difficult to score goals. Our forwards, once they really start hitting form, the pressure will be off. At the moment we are just squeaking by teams, every game is a tough game.”
Although Lidster does see areas that his team can improve, Miller said the squad does have an on-field plan.
Miller said, “GW’s strategy is just hit people as hard as you can, don’t make any friends, and hope we don’t let in any goals.”