Men’s soccer upsets No. 18 Hofstra with three late goals

by Ray Lu | 9/27/15 6:01pm

In a tight affair that saw both teams unable to get ahead for the first 80 minutes, the men’s soccer team exploded for three goals in the final six minutes to knock down No. 18 Hofstra University (6-2), dealing the Pride its second loss of the season. The Big Green’s (3-3-1) performance at Burnham Field on Saturday night flipped the script from its recent pair of losses on a frustrating trip to Seattle last weekend.

“For the first 84 minutes, it was a pretty close game,” Stefan Cleveland ’16 said. “Fortunately right there at the end, we were able to get the first goal and then they started to flood in for the last six minutes. End of the night, we put the game away.”

The floodgates opened when Matt Danilack ’18 headed in a corner from Matt Greer ’18 in the 84th minute. Less than two minutes later, Eduvie Ikoba ’19 tested Hofstra’s senior goalkeeper Patric Pray. Pray deflected the shot right to the feet of Babacar Gadiaga ’18, who finished off the job, giving Dartmouth a 2-0 lead.

In the 87th minute, Ikoba found the back of the net himself, weaving past a pair of defenders and then the keeper for his second goal of the season. Ikoba led the team with three shots on target, and his five shots were tied for the team lead with Yima Asom ’18.

Although Dartmouth failed to score until late, the Big Green had many scoring chances throughout the game that it could not convert into goals. The Big Green outshot Hofstra 19-to-11 and had five corner kicks to the Pride’s one. Hofstra sophomore Meshack Eshun Addy is tied for the lead on his team with four goals on the season, but he failed to capitalize on the night. His one shot came early in the second half, just over the crossbar. Joseph Holland, who shares the lead with Eshun Addy, led Hofstra that night with five shots, but he also failed to find the net.

The defense also held strong for the Big Green. Cleveland was only pressed into two save situations in the first half and finished with four for the game.

“Not a whole lot [of offensive pressure], which is the way it should be,” Cleveland said. “The defense and the midfield did a fantastic job, left me with not too much to do. It’s great to have such a strong defense, to know that I don’t have to do my job nearly as often as I could.”

Hofstra came into the game averaging 1.86 goals per game. The Pride’s early season ranking comes on the strength of its second half play. Eleven of Hofstra’s 13 goals have come in the second half.

The Big Green opened up its season against tough opponents in a tight schedule. Dartmouth played six games in just over two weeks from Sep. 4 to Sep. 20, winning just two.

“We were really, really happy with the game on Saturday,” Danilack said. “We finally matched the performance with the result. We had to wait to get all three goals in the last five minutes, but we finally got them, they finally came, and we were just really happy about the result and now really confident going into Ivy League play starting next week.”

The early grind gave the younger players a lot of playing time to improve. Members from across the lineup have contributed to Dartmouth’s success on offense. Ikoba leads the team with two goals, but the 10 goals that the Big Green have scored so far this season have come from nine different players.

“We are all just encouraged to do our best, and we know that we all provide different talents that help us,” Ikoba said. “In some ways, we’re the same as the players that [graduated], and in some ways we’re different. It has just been bringing our own, different identities to the team, and through that we have been able to fulfill some the things we lost last year. We’ve also been able to add some [talents] as well.”

Head coach Chad Riley is utilizing nearly every inch of his depth chart in games. Seven games into the season, 21 players have already received playing time. The starting lineups have also been mixed and matched. Danilack and defender Sten Stray-Gundersen ’16 are the only two players to start every game this season so far.

The win bodes well for Dartmouth as the team enters Ivy League play next weekend against Princeton University.

Princeton will visit Burnham Field this Saturday. Although Dartmouth and Princeton shared the Ivy League title last season, no team has won back-to-back championships since Dartmouth in 2004-05. Since then, every school except Columbia University has won a share of a men’s soccer title.

Last season, the Big Green took a five-game unbeaten streak into the Ivy opener against Princeton, where Danilack scored the game-winning goal in overtime. While the Big Green will not have the same kind of win streak this year, the big win against a top 25 opponent in Hofstra should provide some momentum.

“I think this week everything’s going toward Princeton, and after that we’ll move on,” Cleveland said. “We’re really on a high horse right now with a win coming into Princeton, got a good mentality in the group. We’re all pretty excited.”