Men’s soccer (5–8–3, 1–4–2 A-10) is on pace for one of its worst conference records in recent years with just one Atlantic 10 game remaining in the season.
Currently situated in 12th place out of 13 teams in the conference, GW may finish the season with its lowest A-10 record since 2010, when the Colonials went 1-8-0. The record is a vast departure from last season, when the team finished third in the league with six wins in conference play.
“You see from the standings there’s a lot of parity in the league so everybody’s trying to beat each other,” head coach Craig Jones said. “There’s no easy game in the conference – the 13th team can beat the first team on any given day, so each game is difficult.”
GW’s 2–0 loss Saturday against Saint Louis shut the Colonials out from postseason play. The team needed to earn six points in two games to have a chance of making the A-10 Championship.
The team lost five starters and gained nine newcomers – including seven freshmen – ahead of the fall season, which Jones said has contributed to the team’s recent struggles.
“Good teams find a way to win games and we’re not kidding ourselves, we’re a young group, we knew that going in,” Jones said. “Sometimes with older groups like we’ve had in the past couple of years they’ve been there before, they’ve done it, they have the experience to know what it takes to grind wins out.”
The Colonials have 23 total goals on the season, one more than their opponents have scored against them so far. Even with their high-powered offense, the Colonials continue to work on crossing and finishing in practice so they can convert their chances on the field into goals, Jones said.
After GW’s game against La Salle last weekend, senior defender Alexy Boehm said the team needed to be “more clinical” in the final third of the field after the Colonials outshot the Rams 22–15 but still ended the game in a 1–1 stalemate.
“Our crosses weren’t beating the first man,” Boehm said after the game against La Salle. “Not really taking the chances that we get.”
The team currently holds a .286 win percentage in conference play – its lowest mark in the last three seasons.
Jones said the team’s offensive-heavy approach has led to its opponents, especially those in the A-10, successfully stepping up their defensive efforts.
“We had a great year last year and I think this year early in the season we’ve showed that we had a very good offensive threat, so teams have sat in and defended well,” Jones said. “We’ve had to try to break teams down, which isn’t easy for even professional teams to do week-in and week-out.”
Jones said the team’s youth and injuries to the backline have both played a factor in the team’s lower A-10 performance this season compared to previous years. On the defensive end, the Colonials have allowed opponents to take an average of 14.2 shots per game compared to GW’s 12.0 shots per game.
Jones said his team will need to cut out some of the individual mistakes and will work on the Colonials’ formation in the backline to help alleviate those errors. But with GW’s heavy focus on an offensive game, Jones said the defensive struggles are part of the trade-off.
“When you get the offensive group that we currently have, you want to play a pretty offensive game so with that, obviously you leave yourself a little bit exposed defensively,” Jones said.
Jones cited four younger members of the team – sophomore forward Oscar Haynes Brown, freshman defender Marcelo Lage, freshman center Grant Barrientos and freshman midfielder Alhaji Turay – as having played consistent roles in the offense.
Haynes Brown currently leads the conference with 11 total goals this season, and Lage is the only Colonial who has started in all 16 of GW’s games. Jones said he is confident going forward that the team will be able to continue producing goals in the future.
“I think certainly for our first-year guys, they’ve played a lot of minutes so as young as we may be this year, those guys have got a lot of experience, so we can use that going forward,” Jones said.
With one game left before concluding their season, Jones said the team will take lessons from this year into the offseason.
“Maybe our expectations are too high, so we are always self-evaluating the team, the program, always seeing where we feel that we need to strengthen them,” Jones said. “We’re going to go out and do that, hopefully with our recruiting. That never changes – we’re always looking to improve the squad.”
The Colonials cap off their season Wednesday against Massachusetts. Kick-off is slated for 2 p.m.
This article appeared in the October 29, 2018 issue of the Hatchet.