By: Liam O’Murchu
GW men’s soccer started Atlantic 10 play strong, picking up a 1-0 win over Davidson on Saturday afternoon.
The Colonials (3-2-2, 1-0 A-10) were poor at times but earned their first clean sheet of the season. The team was propelled by a goal from graduate student Oscar Haynes Brown, who missed the last two matches due to injury.
“The bottom line is I didn’t think we played well.” GW head coach Craig Jones said. “I’ve been on the other side of that where we played really well and haven’t won a game. But when you keep a clean sheet you have a chance.”
Neither team could find a rhythm early on, and the first good chance fell to Davidson freshman midfielder Baylen Young in the 18th minute. Young got on the end of a cross from forward Denis Krioutchenkov but pushed the shot wide while firing a warning shot to the Colonials.
The Wildcats had lots of success getting in behind on GW’s left side all day, and this Young chance was the first manifestation of that.
Krioutchenkov got in behind again in the 30th minute and was 1v1 with GW senior goalkeeper Justin Grady before junior defender Lucas Matuszewski came sliding in and saved the day. This was one of the many fires the Pittsburgh transfer put out in the game, and he celebrated his strong defensive play in the only way he knows how to. With a celebratory scream that resembles something you’d hear on a battlefield.
“I think it just comes from the love of the game.” Matuszewski said when talking about his passion on the field. “I can appreciate it more when I put in a good tackle or my teammate puts in a good tackle. And I use that energy to build and help my team build as well. I know the guys love it and I’m not gonna stop doing it.”
Matuszewski’s… shall we call it… vocal leadership has been important for GW this season, setting the tone for the rest of the team and ensuring the team is playing with energy. It doesn’t hurt that he is among the best 1v1 defenders on the team paired with elite ball winning ability in the air (which checks out when you realize he’s 6’5).
The Buff & Blue began applying more pressure with about 10 minutes left in the first half, with senior midfielder Tom Cooklin getting into dangerous areas. In the 34th minute the Englishman played a tantalizing cross that freshman forward Alex Nicholson was unable to get a foot on.
Four minutes later the Colonials executed a clever short free kick routine which resulted in senior midfielder Roee Tenne beating his man and curling a left footed shot that looked destined to rattle the onion bag before a Davidson defender headed it out for a corner.
Davidson grew back into it and got the ball in a dangerous area in the 42nd minute. The Wildcats got the ball to the endline, crossed it in and saw the ball bounce around in the area. The ball hit the hand of a GW defender but the referee neglected to call a penalty.
Coming out of the half Davidson continued to be the better team. Their best chance early on came in the 50th minute when Young was left wide open on the back post but shanked the shot. A minute later, junior midfielder Maddux Reece curled a shot off the outside of the far post. GW needed to clean it up quickly or else they’d find themselves down a goal.
Fortunately, Cooklin was acutely aware of this fact as well. He shimmied his way past a Davidson defender on the right wing and played a beautiful ball into the space between the defense and the goalkeeper. On the end of the cross was none other than Haynes Brown, who could score a tap-in like this in his sleep. Score he did and he subsequently celebrated by running over to the corner and being mobbed by his teammates.
This was the 34th goal of Haynes Brown GW career, putting him in a tie for fifth in the program’s all-time goalscoring records. The goal energized GW and took the wind out of the Wildcats’ sails. However, Davidson was still pressing and the Colonials would have to preserve the result.
But the Buff & Blue managed a chance of their own in the 65th minute. They engineered a corner kick routine with Matuszewski curling away from the mass of bodies and Cooklin driving a ball in at knee height. Unfortunately for GW, Matuszewski whiffed on the shot and remains with a goal in Buff & Blue.
Davidson kept having success down their right wing, putting in dangerous cross after dangerous cross. One of their best chances came in the 72nd minute when sophomore defender Sai Tummala couldn’t get on the end of a dangerous ball across the face of goal.
GW had a few shaky moments on set pieces late on but managed to escape unscathed. They had a chance to double their lead in the 87th minute when Haynes Brown was rewarded for his pressure, turning Davidson over and going 1v1 with the goalkeeper. He tried to nestle it into the side netting of the far post but got under the ball too much and skied it over the net.
After that it was smooth sailing for the Colonials as they moved to 1-0 in A-10 play this year. As the final whistle sounded, the GW players followed Matuszewski’s example and let out a collective celebratory scream, showing what the result meant to the team.
This was a great result for the team, even if it wasn’t their best performance. Especially important was the fact that the team held a clean sheet for the first time this season. If they can replicate that sort of defensive performance and continue the strong offensive output from early this year, they will be a factor in the Atlantic 10 this season.