Men’s soccer is aiming to reach the A-10 Championship for a second consecutive season.
Despite the Colonials falling to Fordham 2–0 in the conference title game in April, the team far exceeded their No. 11 preseason rank and defied expectations by defeating No. 1 Dayton in the semifinal. Head coach Craig Jones said opposing teams will make it more difficult for GW to replicate last season’s success.
“We have a target on our backs so we have to deal with that, we have to adjust,” Jones said. “There’s going to be games where we might have to change formation to find a way to win, but we know how we go about things, the process is still the same.”
The Colonials return all 24 players on last year’s roster and add three freshmen recruits for the fall campaign. The squad will look to utilize their postseason experience and further increase their chemistry as graduate student forward Oscar Haynes Brown said they look to do one game better this year.
“We all know each other, we all know our different movements, we’re used to playing with each other,” Haynes Brown said. “We’ve had only three new people but they’ve brought a different aspect to everything, so it’s definitely been good for us. We know what we can achieve.”
Haynes Brown entered the year needing just five goals to become a top 10 scorer in program history. The England native tallied two goals in the season-opener against VMI Aug. 26, putting him well on his way to etching his name in the record books.
Last year, the Colonials scored two or more goals in just one of their 10 spring matches. Instead they relied on their stout defense which allowed just five goals in the regular season and ranked second in the A-10 with a .651 goals against average, anchored by the play of All-Southeast Region First Team junior goalkeeper Justin Grady.
During last Thursday’s matchup, GW struck four goals past the Keydets to provide some early-season momentum in front of the net. Grady also kept a clean sheet to continue his sterling form of last season.
Graduate student defender Hrolfur Sveinsson led all outfield players with 961 minutes played last spring and will continue to form a center-back partnership with sophomore defenders Christian Rader and Aaron Kronenberg, who have both seen notable action at the back since arriving at GW.
The backline has also shown their ability to impact the game offensively this year. The starting fullbacks, graduate student defender Joshua Yurasits and junior defender Ryan Cedeno, provided an extra dimension to the attack against VMI with overlapping runs on the wings.
Cedeno registered two assists against the Keydets, the firsts of his career, playing dangerous balls into the box to Haynes Brown and freshman forward Nico Krueger from the wide areas.
The midfield group, highlighted by the trio of sophomore Tim Neumann, junior Tom Cooklin and graduate student Sandro Weber, created a plethora of chances against the Keydets as the unit’s experience was on full display. The trio started a combined 29 games during the spring, linking Haynes Brown and the sturdy backline together.
“We have a good group, the guys returning all played significant minutes so far and our first-year guys have scored in some of the preseason exhibitions,” Jones said. “So like I said, I think we’ve got the usual suspects I guess in terms of Oscar and whatnot who score goals, but I think we have enough pieces and depth to have a real solid group overall.”
The Colonials have 16 games remaining on their 2021 schedule leading up to the A-10 Championship beginning Nov. 6. Jones said every win, whether it’s against a conference foe or not, is important during the more hectic fall slate. He said the team will take the season “one game at a time.”
GW will play in 12 matches in a span of five weeks in the midseason beginning with a home game against Liberty Sept. 7, a grueling gauntlet that will play a key role in determining the team’s postseason fate.
Despite earning a No. 6 preseason ranking after their deep playoff run last year, the Colonials still have their sights set on the A-10 crown. Cedeno said the team is doing their best to “block out the outside noise” and prevent newfound expectations from changing their approach.
“The only thing I think it has an effect on is that it puts more fire under us to really prove everybody wrong, and even more importantly prove ourselves right because we believe we are good enough to do what it takes to be successful in the A-10 and win the championship,” Cedeno said.
The Colonials will look to maintain their early season form against crosstown rival Howard Monday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.