Sixty-three minutes into Saturday’s game against Howard, Andy Stadler had to make a decision. The senior forward stood outside and left of the penalty box beside sophomore teammate Yoni Berhanu, second to Stadler on the team in scoring last season, and sized up Bison defenders as they prepared to protect their goal against an ensuing free kick. He saw their wall – four or five men wide – and their goalkeeper out of position. The choice was made; the kick would be his.
“We made the decision right when we were setting up the ball, who’s gonna take it,” Stadler said. “Usually we have Yoni take the free kicks, but in that situation I was pretty confident that I was going to score.”
He was right. A few approaching steps and one right-footed strike buried the ball in the back-right corner of the net, breaking what had been a scoreless stalemate and providing an edge the Colonials would preserve on their way to a 2-0 win.
“We’ve worked on that,” head coach George Lidster said, though he declined to elaborate on exactly what they worked on, lest publication of the play’s details jeopardize the competitive advantage it offers. “Just say it was a planned play – a well-planned play.”
Though waived off on Stadler’s score, Berhanu would go on to tally a goal of his own in the game’s 83rd minute, outracing a defender as he streaked up the left side of the field, with Stadler at his flank, before putting it past the keeper himself.
GW (1-1) was enjoying a man advantage at this point after Howard’s Kareem Williams was previously sent off for collecting his second yellow card of the game. Stadler’s goal had been on the free kick that followed.
The Colonials’ breakthroughs on the scoreboard came after a litany of chances – crosses that found no connection on the other end, open shots that sailed wide or high – came and went without being seized upon. All this came after a season-opening loss to American last week in which GW failed to score altogether, despite a similar number of opportunities.
“We just couldn’t finish chances,” Lidster said of his team’s play in their first two games. “We have to put these chances away, otherwise good teams will certainly beat us.”
The score remained tight at least in part due to the play of freshman goalkeeper Brendan Lafferty, who made the first start of his collegiate career Saturday. The newcomer from New York was playing in the place of normal starter Scott Goossens, a redshirt junior who received a red card against American for handling the ball outside the box, and was thus ineligible for Saturday’s contest.
Any discrepancy between the two was unnoticeable – Stadler said the only difference was that Lafferty “yells a lot more” – as the Colonials’ defense did its part to limit Howard’s chances. Lafferty saved all four of the Bison’s shots on goal, punching away one first-half attempt as he collapsed to his right.
The Colonials’ attention now turns toward another local school as they prepare to host the University of D.C. at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Mount Vernon Athletic Complex. A trip to play at No. 8/7 University of California (NSCAA/Soccer America) next weekend follows, giving GW an early and formidable test as they continue to seek improvement in this young season.
“I think we’ll get better as the season goes on,” Lidster said. “It might not be the next game, it might not be the game after that – it’s going to take a while for us to get our rhythm.”