Men’s soccer loses early lead over A-10 leading VCU in final minutes

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Junior midfielder Drini Redzepi moves the ball up the field during Saturday afternoon's match against VCU. The Colonials lost to the Rams 2–1.

Men’s soccer was ahead of conference leader VCU until there were just a dozen minutes left on the clock Saturday afternoon.

But the Rams ( 8-4-1, 4-0-1 A-10) toppled GW’s 1–0 lead, netting two goals off of two GW mistakes in the final 12 minutes of the match to beat the Colonials (5-6-1, 1-3-0) 2–1 at home.

“We were a little panicky and turned the ball over way too much in the first half,” head coach Craig Jones said. “Everything was going well and then we have two mistakes.”

Despite the loss, the Colonials became the first team to find the back of the net against VCU in A-10 play this season.

Senior goalkeeper Thor Arne Höfs made eight saves while graduate student midfielder Haukur Hilmarsson scored his second goal in as many games.

GW faced a VCU squad that entered the contest with the reigning A-10 Offensive and Defensive Players of the week in junior midfielder Siaj Haji and sophomore goalkeeper Mario Sequeira.

The Rams started the match on the front foot and did not let up, controlling possession and pinning the Colonials back into their own half for about the first 30 minutes of play. Sophomore forward Oscar Haynes Brown was left isolated up top as Hilmarsson and sophomore midfielder Peirce Williams were forced back to defend.

Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Sophomore midfielder Brady O’Connor jumps up to challenge a VCU player.

Haynes Brown had little success against the physical presence of VCU’s defenders, but the introduction of senior forward Dylan Lightbourn in the place of Williams late in the first half changed the pace of the game.

Lightbourn battled for loose balls and was able to hold possession to let his teammates join him in attack, while Haynes Brown shifted to the left flank and found more opportunities on the ball.

While Sequeira did not need to make a save in the first half, the Colonials managed to be a threat to the Rams’ net and got off three shots before halftime.

Despite near-constant pressure, the Colonials’ defense held the Rams to just five shots in the first half.

Anderson and freshman defender Marcelo Lage were a rock-solid partnership in the first half during Anderson’s second appearance as a center back this season.

“My game hasn’t changed much,” Anderson said of his switch from midfield to defense. “I’m just playing and trying to do my best for the team.”

The Colonials began the second half with the same lineup that they finished with, a decision that paid dividends.

Lightbourn collected a pass down the left side and quickly dished it to Haynes Brown, who cut inside and teed up freshman midfielder Alhaji Turay.

Turay unleashed a powerful strike that was beaten away by Sequeira, only for the ball to drop perfectly for Hilmarsson to volley it into the net to give the Colonials a 1–0 lead in the 54th minute of play.

The Rams responded to the first goal against them in A-10 play with attacking intent, as junior defender Ryo Shimazaki bombed forward and twice forced Höfs into making a save. Haynes Brown and Hilmarsson were both forced to track back defensively to protect against the advancing VCU fullbacks.

It seemed as though the Colonials would manage to hold on and make a statement by upsetting the conference’s top team, but with less than fifteen minutes remaining Williams, on as a substitute for Haynes Brown, hacked a risky clearance back across the middle of the field.

Redshirt senior midfielder Eli Lockaby collected the ball and managed to shift a low cross from the left and freshman forward Martin Ngoh was on hand to blast the equalizer into the roof of the net in the 78th minute of play.

“We frustrated them, the game plan I feel worked,” Jones said. “Against good teams, when you make mistakes 40 yards from your goal or less, you’re going to get punished.”

Jones rolled the dice and brought Haynes Brown in for Lightbourn, attempting to nick a winning goal before the end of regulation. Instead, it was the visitors who got two shots off, each backed by a rejection, in the next three minutes.

GW looked to be holding on for overtime when Höfs possessed the ball with just two minutes remaining, but his pass into the midfield went straight to the Rams.

Ngoh fed redshirt senior midfielder Peter Pearson inside the penalty area and Pearson slipped the ball beyond Höfs to win the match with one minute left in the game.

“You can’t have guys cleaving the ball across our own goal, and then Thor plays a pass that we’ve never ever practiced in practice ever,” Jones said. “I’m not sure why he did that.”

GW ended up outshot 10–4 in the second frame while forcing just two saves from Sequeira in the match.

With just four conference matches left before heading into the A-10 Championships, the clock is running out for the Colonials to improve their standing.

“It’s up to the guys. I can ‘ra-ra-ra’ them and do whatever, but same as today we had a game plan and if they don’t execute it and can’t lift themselves up for A-10 conference play, then they shouldn’t be here,” Jones said. “That’s the bottom line.”

The Colonials travel to Fordham Wednesday for their next match. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

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