Last fall, one player was responsible for six goals for men’s soccer, double what any of his teammates managed to score the entire season.
Still, GW’s final seven goals came from players other than that senior forward and former co-captain, Tyler Ranalli. Five different players who scored five of the seven goals last season returned to the team this year.
Together, the group has already produced five goals in GW’s first three games of the year, stepping up to replace Ranalli’s production “by committee,” said head coach Craig Jones.
The team is playing more time in a 4-4-2 offensive formation that puts more players further up the field and in an attack-focused mindset compared to last season’s 4-5-1 formation.
“There’s also more of an emphasis on attacking as opposed to last year,” junior forward Phillip McQuitty said. “Sometimes we would keep the ball and go backwards. But this year, everyone has the mindset of scoring and the belief that we can score, too.”
Jones said at the start of the season his goal is to spread the goal-scoring across the roster instead of relying on a single striker. In the first three games, four players have scored while eight players have points. In GW’s 4-1 victory over Howard on Aug. 31, four different Colonials found the back of the net. Seven players registered points in the game, a first for the team since 2009.
If the team does have a dominant scorer, it is junior forward Jonny Forrest. Forrest started strong last year, setting his sights on scoring 10 goals, the number he wears on his jersey. But Forrest was sidelined with a hamstring injury for much of the season and scored just three goals in 433 minutes on the pitch.
Forrest has already equaled his three goals from last season in 169 minutes of play, scoring two goals in GW’s 2-1 win over Harvard on Sept. 7. Despite Forrest’s early production, Jones said he is using his top forward cautiously to keep him healthy.
“He has got kind of his own program where we do preventative exercises for his hamstrings,” Jones said. “If we have to withdraw him sometimes from practice because we think he is doing too much or if he is feeling some tightness, obviously, we are going to use it – we’re going to set a caution, knowing that when he’s on the field, as he has shown, he scores goals.”
Forrest is the team’s leading scorer, and, like last year, he wants at least 10 goals by the end of the season. The North Shield, England native explained 10 was his favorite number to wear back home, but his freshman year one of the GW players was already wearing it. His next year, he asked Jones if he could wear 10, and the coach said he would allow it if Forrest scored 10 goals.
Jones believes he’s capable of meeting this challenge and hopes he can even go beyond it.
“He’s got a great soccer IQ,” Jones said. “If he scores 10 this year, we’ll give him number 20 next year.”
Even with Forrest’s star power, Jones stands by his early-season argument that spreading the scoring around is better than relying on a go-to striker.
Forrest has spent most of his time at the top of the field with McQuitty, one of two pairs Jones has rotated up top. The other pair consists of sophomores Angel Valencia and Jopus Grevelink. Jones said the rotations will continue until players start performing consistently. Ideally, he would have two starters for the whole season, but in reality, Jones said it will depend on the opponent and what he sees in practice.
Jones’ go-to frontmen as of now are McQuitty, who has played the most minutes of any forward this season (205), and Forrest. The 6-foot-5 McQuitty and 5-foot-11 Forrest may be a mismatch physically: McQuitty is a dominant physical presence who shreds through defenders with his towering frame, while Forrest picks his spots carefully to weave into striking range.
McQuitty said he and Forrest have great chemistry at the top.
“[Forrest] is really smart on the field and always knows where to run, when to hold the ball up, when to shoot, and that’s just as important as being physical,” McQuitty said. “Some players should really model off Jonny, because sometimes they’re running in bad spots or we are running the same way.”
The team continues its season Tuesday in Annapolis, Md. against Navy.