In the first two games of its season, men’s soccer played with a thriving offense that carried the team to two decisive victories.
But a face-off against a tough Lehigh defense Saturday had the offense hitting a wall and exposed the work that still needs to be done on the attack for the Colonials to end the season atop the Atlantic 10.
In the team’s opening games against Stony Brook and American, sophomore forward Oscar Haynes Brown powered the offense, tallying seven goals and one assist. Against Lehigh, Haynes Brown got off a team-high five shots, but none of them found the net.
“We were pressing really well as a team,” Haynes Brown said of the offense’s performance in last Monday’s match against American.
Head coach Craig Jones said his team had nothing to be ashamed of after playing 90 minutes of gritty soccer Saturday against Lehigh, but the glaring bottom line was that the team failed to score even as the offense stormed the net.
“I think it just prepares us better now for when they do get to the A-10s,” Jones said. “We’re going to have those close games, those one-goal games that we’ve already been in.”
Jones said after coming off two solid wins, the team’s first loss of the season exposed areas that need improvement before conference play. As tougher competition looms, the team must sharpen up inconsistencies in play so they can break down the opponent’s defense, he said, something the team wasn’t able to do against Lehigh.
“We’ve got a good offensive group, we just have to have more quality in the final third and be a little more clinical and take some more chances,” Jones said.
The squad still has five more contests leading up to its conference opener at Davidson on Sept. 29, and the statistics so far tell the story of a team that may be poised to make waves in the A-10 despite the recent loss.
Through the first three games, GW has totaled nine goals, 49 shots and 23 shots on goal.
The Colonials’ offense is on an upward trend compared to their performance at the same time last year. After three games in 2017, the team was 1–2–0 and had scored only two goals.
Out of nine teams in the A-10 that have played three contests, the Colonials lead the pack in goals scored with nine.
GW’s 49 shots put it behind only Duquesne and Dayton, which totaled 53 and 51 shots, respectively, through their first three games. The Colonials’ 23 shots on goal are good for second in the league behind Dayton with 25.
In the conference preseason poll, the Colonials were ranked in the bottom half of the field, falling at No. 7 out of 13 contenders in the A-10. Fordham, currently ranked No. 15 nationally in the United Soccer Coaches’ top-25 poll, holds the leading spot.
When conference games begin, the Colonials will face significant obstacles against A-10 teams with high-caliber defenses.
Both the Stony Brook and Lehigh defenses have let up four goals through three games this season and American has allowed 12 goals through the same span. But, of the other six A-10 teams that have also played three games, five of them have allowed three or fewer goals, including Rhode Island who has allowed zero.
Junior defender Reese Moore said the team has been focusing on making key offensive adjustments that will allow it to break down tougher opponents.
“Every day in practice, Jones has just been having us do crossing and finishing for probably 30 minutes each day, and we’re hoping that leads into games,” Moore said.
The squad’s statistics through the first three games show GW has pieced together an explosive offense and will just need to fine tune its strides to find the net in conference play.
Last year, the Colonials were ranked No. 6 when the season began, and a 6-2-0 league record propelled them to the No. 3 spot heading into the postseason. In all nine non-conference contests in 2017, the team scored 10 goals.
With offensive production that is on track to surpass last year’s performance, the future appears bright for GW, even in the face of the season’s first stinging defeat.
“I think a setback like this is probably better for you going forward than a win,” junior defender Gabriel Seemungal said. “We were on cloud nine and this brings us back down to reality that we have to do the basics well, defend well, tackle well, play hard football.”