By: Liam O’Murchu
GW men’s soccer moved to 4-2-2 (1-0 A-10) on the season after a resounding 5-0 victory over Howard on Wednesday afternoon.
Graduate student forward Oscar Haynes Brown scored twice to extend his lead atop the Colonials goal scoring chart this season with five goals. Meanwhile, senior goalkeeper Justin Grady played his best game of the season thus far, making eight saves.
This was GW’s largest margin of victory (and most goals scored in a match) since their 6-0 win over American in August of 2018. In fact, the team had a seven game stretch last season where they only scored four goals (September 28-October 23). It took them 90 minutes to score more goals than they could muster in 658 minutes last year.
The series between the Colonials and the Bison now sits tied, with each team winning 20 matches to go along with six draws. This was GW’s first home victory against Howard since September 2, 1998.
“I’m a little disappointed in the first half, in how we played.” GW head coach Craig Jones said. “I thought we could have killed the game a little bit and made it a little bit easier in the second half. But we created a lot of chances and we scored some good goals, so no complaints.”
GW got the ball rolling in the 7th minute after senior midfielder Elias Norris turned the Bison (1-5-1) over in a dangerous spot, poked it past the defender and then into the far corner. The goal wasn’t necessarily indicative of GW’s dominance early on, although the team had lots of half chances in the opening minutes.
In the 22nd minute, Howard had their best chance of the game to that point. GW junior defender Lucas Matuszewski coughed up the ball on top of his own box and sophomore forward Bryson Baker surged in on net. However, Grady was there to answer the call, coming off his line quickly, making himself big and putting the ball out for a corner kick.
There was a flurry of activity surrounding the 26th minute. First, GW couldn’t capitalize on a dangerous ball from a corner kick and just seconds later, Norris was unable to keep his shot down on a 1v1 opportunity with the goalkeeper after a feed from Haynes Brown.
Moments later, a Howard defender played a peach of a ball over the top to junior forward Nathan Leggett behind GW’s defense. Leggett brought it down, made his way past Grady and looked destined to even the score into an empty net. But Grady recovered and made an otherworldly save, fully extending his body and catching up with the ball to block it with his hands.
Senior defender Ryan Cedeno blocked another shot as the ball pinballed around the box. In the mess of bodies, the ball hit a Howard player’s hand and the referee awarded a free kick to GW, allowing the Colonials to breathe a sigh of relief.
“Especially early on, [Grady] had some big saves, some big plays for us.” Cedeno said. “It always helps us to be confident in our keeper. To know that if we need to, we can rely on him as well. Going forward, he’s going to be a big part of what we do in terms of building out and also in terms of keeping more clean sheets.”
In the 39th minute, the Colonials doubled their lead from a reliable source. Norris made his way to the endline and played a cross into senior forward Tiago Carvalho, who shanked his shot directly into the path of Haynes Brown. The London, England native calmly turned and put the ball in the top corner.
Heading into halftime, even as the game looked under control, GW was dissatisfied with their performance.
“A lot of it was just intensity.” Jones said. “I asked the group [at halftime] how we thought we did, and overall the response was okay. Okay is not okay. To accept being okay isn’t good enough.”
Haynes Brown had an opportunity to add another one as he found himself alone on a breakaway in the 49th minute. Barreling in on goal, a Howard defender caught up with him just enough to affect his shot, which went off the crossbar from the top of the box.
A few minutes later Haynes Brown found himself in another dangerous position, this time off a cross from freshman forward Alex Nicholson. But the Englishman poked it wide. Haynes Brown had another chance a few minutes later that was saved well by Howard freshman goalkeeper JR Gawel (who actually played pretty well, saving seven shots).
Next up, I have some sad news. In the 57th minute, GW scored off a short corner kick routine. As someone who despises short corners in all forms, this was difficult to watch. But I will be the first to admit that it was expertly executed.
Haynes Brown came short, received the ball from senior midfielder Roee Tenne and played it back to Tenne. The winger crossed the ball in, it took a funky bounce and junior midfielder Carter Humm (who was once again terrific) won the ball in the air, nodding it down to Nicholson, who saw the ball come off his chest and fall to Kronenberg. The German made no mistake, clobbering the ball into the top of the net and running to the corner to celebrate with his teammates.
Six minutes later, Haynes Brown found himself wide open on a corner kick (how do you leave him, out of anyone, open on a corner kick??). Senior midfielder Tom Cooklin drove the corner kick to the back post and Haynes Brown finally got his second goal of the day and the 36th of his illustrious GW career. That gives him sole possession of fourth place on the GW men’s soccer all-time goalscoring list. With four more, he’ll move into a tie with Arnar Johannsson for third place.
Haynes Brown probably could have had four or five goals today. GW can find another gear when he is on the field and playing well. It goes beyond his finishing too. His hold up play is outstanding (especially for his size) and his ability with the ball at his feet is often overlooked.
From there, GW saw out the rest of the game, getting two more saves from Grady and another one from sophomore Richard Raupp, who saw his first collegiate action after coming in with 20 minutes remaining.
However, the Buff & Blue weren’t done on the offensive end. In the 88th minute, Norris once again got to the endline and put a cross in. This time Nicholson made a darting run to the front post and got a foot on it to give GW a 5-0 lead.
The last thing Jones said in our postgame interview?
“Good day at the office.”
On the injury front, Jones gave updates on two players who’ve been dealing with injuries: midfielders Alhaji Turay and Grant Barrientos. The expectation is for Barrientos to travel with the team for their match against Loyola Chicago on Saturday, but he likely won’t play until next Wednesday against James Madison. Turay is a little further out, and the target date for his return is October 1 against Duquesne (who were ranked 25th in the most recent United Soccer Coaches poll).
GW hits the road this weekend for a matchup against A-10 newcomers Loyola Chicago, who should provide a tough test. The Ramblers will be playing their first ever A-10 home game after moving over from the Missouri Valley Conference this summer. This will be the first ever meeting between the teams. Kickoff for that one is 4 PM on Saturday on ESPN+.