The record-setting offense of men’s soccer has grinded to a halt: The Lions have only scored one goal from the run of play in their last 225 minutes, down from their early-season pace of three or four goals a game.
But the Lions (8-5-2, 3-2-1) made last week’s lone goal from the run of play count, rebounding from a non-conference 2-1 loss at Muhlenberg College with a 1-0 win against NJAC rivals William Paterson University (2-3-1) on a late goal from junior midfielder Kevin McCartney.
It was McCartney’s second goal of the year, both game-winners directly on free kicks from just outside the box, and came on a play drawn up by head coach George Nazario.
“On this instance it felt almost the same after the referee had called the free kick,” McCartney said. “(Senior midfielder) Dan Durnian made an awesome run and as he was beating the guy, he got taken down by the defender right on top of the 18. I stepped up and as a team we decided to run this fake kick play set up by coach Nazario. It worked perfectly enough as the goalie shifted his weight to the opposite side, (which) allowed me to just bend it into the lower far post.”
The defense put up another big performance with seven total saves, six of which came from sophomore goalkeeper Maciej Libucha for his first shutout of the year and the Lions’ first in nearly a month.
“The defense stayed organized throughout the whole game and kept it simple and clean,” Libucha said. “They eliminated any dangerous opportunities and gave us a chance to win.”
Despite being outshot on goal 7-2, the Lions put up a solid performance from the run of play and only ended up needing one moment of magic thanks to the defense.
“I feel that although we didn’t put up many shots on the board, we did a great job as a team playing well defensively and keeping the ball under pressure,” McCartney said. “My teammates and I all have faith in each other’s skills and we know that if we are able to keep the ball, positive chances will come.”
It was anyone’s game, though, and the Pioneers would have gotten on the board first early in the second half, if not for a smart save from sophomore midfielder Nick Costelloe.
“He was in the right place there and got an important clearance for us,” Libucha said. “It was an important one too as it kept us tied.”
Muhlenberg ensured the Lions’ mid-week game did not stay tied for long, putting them in a two-goal hole in the first 15 minutes.
Senior forward Kevin Shaw scored his 15th goal of the season in the 71st minute to bring the Lions back into the game, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the loss.
“After our Wednesday night game versus Muhlenberg, I think as a team we realized that we can’t come out in the big games playing a nonchalant first half,” McCartney said. “We have to work hard and play consistent, and let everything fall into place.”