On paper, men’s soccer seems to be in dire straits.
Through its first five games, GW was outscored 11‒4, outshot 70‒42 and recorded just a single win. Before this Saturday, the Colonials’ had scored their last goal in a game against Howard on Aug. 30, going 270 minutes without finding the back of the net in three consecutive shutout losses.
But head coach Craig Jones and his team have taken the disheartening start with a grain of salt. Injury problems, a tough road schedule out of the gate and a lack of finishing have all contributed to GW’s scoring drought, but Jones contends his team is still doing the right things and creating chances.
“Sometimes [shot totals] can be a little deceiving to be honest, but I’m not trying to make excuses. Should we be scoring more goals? Yes. Would we like to be scoring more goals? Yes. But I’m not getting too beat up about it. If we weren’t creating chances, that’s a bigger problem,” Jones said.
Last season, then-freshman forward Christian Lawal and then-junior forward Jonny Forrest led GW in scoring with three goals each. Both players began the 2015 campaign on the bench, sidelined with injuries.
Lawal has since returned and even started in the team’s last two games, but he and other key offensive weapons like sophomore midfielder Koby Osei-Wusu are not 90-minute players yet. And the constant roster changes because of injuries are not helping team chemistry, Jones said.
“We are trying to get guys minutes before we open the A-10 and guys are coming back. We obviously want to play them so when we do change the lineup or change the back line, it does take a little bit of getting used to,” he said.
“Sometimes it does hurt the chemistry because we are tinkering a little more than we would if we didn’t have the injuries,” Jones added.
Injuries have also prevented a star finisher to emerge for the Colonials and be the key to a successful season.
Lawal stepped up in his rookie season last year and finished with a team-high seven points, and in seasons past it looked like Forrest, who is still out with a leg injury, could be that player.
“If you can get a guy to score seven to 10 goals and get two or three others to chip in four or five, you can have a very good team,” Jones said. “Every team needs someone to have a good season and then have a supporting cast, and no one has quite been that superstar yet. We’re still waiting to see our team be 100 percent fit.”
Junior midfielder Garrett Heine has come closest to being that finisher for his team so far, recording a team-high seven points with three goals and one assist on the season.
Senior co-captain Oliver De Their also says the team is additionally trying a new offensive formation this year that has taken some getting used to.
“We switched formations this year. We’re going with one forward up top and we have three in the middle now, which is obviously one less striker, but we think we’re stronger if we have more numbers in the middle and can overcrowd in the middle,” De Their said. “So I think that’s an adjustment, just having one less guy up there scoring goals. It really comes down to repetition and practice and we work on it. It’s only been five games so I don’t think we’re too worried about it, obviously it’s not ideal but it’ll come with time we think.”
Finally playing at home may be one more way for GW to jump-start its season.
After opening its schedule with two games at the D.C. College Cup, a neutral site, the Colonials traveled West to take on Cal State Fullerton and San Diego State before returning to the east coast to face Saint Francis.
“Without question, being on the road and in California, it’s definitely a different environment, a different style of play over there. We don’t want to blame the losses all on that, but obviously those are factors, so we’re incredibly excited to get back home,” De Their said.
This Saturday in fact, the Colonials downed Loyola Maryland 1‒0 at the GW soccer field. Heine netted the game-winner in GW’s second win of the season which ended the team’s scoring drought and losing streak at three games.
So while men’s soccer’s opening stretch might look nightmarish to some, GW is sticking to its game plan and hopes that with time, the goals — and wins — will continue to come.
The Colonials continue their three-game homestand when they match up against UMBC on Tuesday at 3 p.m.