It only took 17 seconds for the dynamic and outcome of the men’s soccer game to change dramatically Wednesday night.
After trailing for 72 minutes and taking only one first half shot, GW tied the score up at 1–1 after a shot from freshman forward Oscar Haynes Brown deflected in past the Navy goalkeeper.
On the very next play, freshman midfielder Brady O’Connor was dragged down by a Midshipmen defender – inside the box – and rewarded a penalty kick. O’Connor said he knew exactly where he was going as he finished a low and hard shot into the bottom right corner – giving the Colonials their first lead of the game.
The Colonials (2-3-0) held on to their advantage and added an insurance goal with five minutes remaining to defeat Navy 3–1 on the road.
“We need to be a little bit more aggressive early in games so that we don’t have to dig ourselves out,” head coach Craig Jones said. “But if you can score three goals in the second half, we’ll take starting slow.”
The winning effort started on a low note for GW. The Midshipmen scored the first goal of the game on the team’s first shot on net – just 13 minutes into the contest.
The goal was the 10th allowed past junior goalkeeper Thor Arne Höfs on the season. Höfs finished last season with 11 goals against in 17 games.
The Colonials took their offensive pressure up a notch in the second half. Navy outshot GW 17-11 on the game, but a large portion of the second half was played with the Colonials in control of the pace.
Although the Colonials have still yet to score in the first half this season, Wednesday was the first time the team had netted more than one goal in a game.
“At halftime I had some choice words to say to some of the guys and I just didn’t think that some guys were pulling their weight,” Jones said. “We wanted to see a response and I think that’s the best 45 minutes we played this season.”
Navy started the scoring threat in the third minute of the match after a Midshipmen corner kick resulted in an opportunity inside the box. The ball was deflected by a GW defender over the net to escape the trouble.
The Colonials responded six minutes later with what ended up being their best chance of the first half. Haynes Brown and the Navy goalkeeper each challenged a 50-50 ball, but neither had the clear advantage and the ball went sailing out of play.
Six minutes after the Midshipmen’s goal, Navy freshman midfielder Jarvian Wigfall split the GW defense and fired a hard shot on the Colonials’ net. Höfs made the save – his first of six in the game.
After 19 minutes of a back and forth play and a Navy shot from just outside the six-yard box, senior midfielder Oliver Curry had two separate crosses into the middle of the 18-yard box. Both passes did not find a GW target and the Colonials went into the half trailing 1–0.
After 10 minutes of second-half action, the intensity was high on both rosters. Two GW players – freshmen Peirce Williams and Simon Finch – and one Navy player picked up yellow cards.
In the 60th minute, the Colonials notched their first shot on goal off a free kick from Curry. His shot found open space, but was saved by the outstretched arms of the Midshipmen keeper.
GW continued the offensive onslaught for the next 12 minutes as multiple hard shots were taken and missed from a distance.
Following the two GW goals, the game was still far from over with 15 minutes to plat. Höfs was forced to make two difficult saves including one that deflected an otherwise certain goal.
“Tonight was the first time I’ve seen him make what I would say is a very world-class save,” Jones said. “That save was the first time that I thought, ‘hey, I think we can win this game.’”
With only five minutes showing on the clock, junior forward Dylan Lightbourn finessed the ball past the keeper – sealing the win for the Colonials.
GW will return to action as a host to UMBC (3-1) Saturday at 2 p.m.