The team’s play this weekend was like watching Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on the field, head coach Craig Jones said.
When the final horn sounded Sunday after GW’s 3-0 loss to Massachusetts, players and coaches could only scratch their heads. They were visibly thrown by yet another disjointed weekend effort – another lost opportunity to etch two consecutive W’s into this season’s schedule.
After suffering two conference defeats last weekend on the Mount Vernon Campus, the Colonials (5-10-0) were hoping to capitalize on their continued home field advantage this weekend. Friday, GW hosted Rhode Island, ousting them in shutout fashion 2-0.
But then the Colonials were felled by a weakness that has shone all season: Their inability to win twice in a row. The Minutemen came in Sunday and quieted the home bench from the start with three first-half goals.
“We just didn’t show up [Sunday]. Mentally, I didn’t think we were ready. It was just really disappointing,” Jones said. “Technically, we were just very poor, and it was borderline embarrassing how many times we turned the ball over. We just weren’t there, and it cost us.”
There was a stark contrast between how GW went about its business between the two days of weekend play. During Friday’s match against the Rams, the Colonials started off hot with a 40-yard goal from freshman Glen Sousa 13 minutes and 50 seconds from the opening whistle. Senior Seth Rudolph added a goal of his own in the second half, and sophomore goalkeeper Luke Farrell locked down the net. Though the Colonials were outshot 21-9 on the day, they were much sharper with their offensive runs and shot taking.
On Sunday though, GW’s play made a 180-degree swing. The team could find no holes in the Massachusetts defense during the first 45 minutes and had trouble handling first touches and maintaining possession. It was an offensive effort characterized by backward passes and only a few threatening runs forward.
Though GW won six corner kicks in the opening half, the team failed to convert on a single set piece. Crosses consistently flew past the box, making it easy for the Minutemen to regain and maintain possession.
“We just couldn’t find it. The heart, we were just missing it today,” junior captain Tyler Ranalli said. “We have to stay hungry and keep focused for the whole weekend. And I’m going to work as hard as I possibly can to make a difference next game.”
Massachusetts’ offensive push was, ironically, reminiscent of the Colonials’ high-powered effort against the Rams Friday. The Minutemen capitalized on counter attacks and GW’s sluggish transition play at midfield. Colonial defenders had a tough time marking sophomore Matt Keys, who scored two headers in the box on consecutive Minutemen corners in the 10th and 25th minutes. Massachusetts added another goal in the 33rd minute, leaving GW with a daunting three-goal deficit heading into the second half.
Though GW’s energy picked up noticeably as the second half got underway, the Colonials couldn’t sustain the push. Instead of developing patient, deep offensive runs, GW defenders and midfielders dumped a lot of passes upfield and beyond the reach of their strikers.
Jones said he has tried everything to avoid the inconsistencies, but nothing has worked yet.
“We have changed what we do on Saturdays. We have changed the lineup a little bit. I just don’t know what it is,” he said. “Maybe it’s a mental thing. Maybe a younger group just doesn’t have that mental edge for a second game.”
Dropping to 2-4 in conference play after the loss to Massachusetts, the Colonials will essentially have to win their final three games to qualify for the A-10 tournament. Considering that all three games are on the road, Jones knows the task will be a difficult one. And he said a new, attack-oriented strategy will be implemented as a way to keep hopes alive.
After witnessing the struggles of his team on Sunday, Jones also hopes all his players will be more accountable in the games to come, citing a lack of on-field leadership as a contributing factor in his team’s loss to Massachusetts.
“I’m looking for 11 leaders on the field. It’s not only the captains that can lead the group. It can come from somewhere else,” Jones said. “Unfortunately [Sunday], I don’t think we had one guy that took the team on his shoulders to drive the team forward. Everyone just seemed to go missing.”