Men’s soccer opens Ivy slate with one-goal win
The men’s soccer team started off their Ivy League slate this season with a gritty 1-0 win against Princeton University (3-4-1, 0-1-0 Ivy), who shared the Ivy title with the Big Green (4-3-1, 1-0-0 Ivy) last season.
“Overall, I’m just proud. One of the things we say is that our strength is our depth, and when you need energy like that our guys came in and everyone did a good job,” head coach Chad Riley said. “I think you always want to open up conference play with a win.”
Dartmouth started off the game well, attacking early and often. Yima Asom ’18 and Eduvie Ikoba ’19 both had opportunities on goal in the opening eight minutes.
“We started the game well,” Ikoba said. “We had a lot of the ball. It was a game where I felt like, if we continued playing like this, we could end up getting three or four goals on this team.”
The offensive push paid off in the ninth minute of play. Ikoba corralled a pass in the box that deflected off a Princeton defender. The forward collected the ball and slotted it across to a waiting Amadu Kunateh ’19, who found the back of the net and put the Big Green up against the Tigers 1-0 early in the first period.
“A defender on their team lost it, but I saw space behind and I attacked it,” Ikoba said. “I saw [Kunateh] calling for it, so I was able to just look and flick it to him.”
Ikoba and Kunateh are tied for the team lead in goals with two for each player. The two freshmen have demonstrated their chemistry as the attacking force for the Big Green.
“We’re both freshmen, so we end up spending a lot of time together. We practice well together. I think we just understand how each other both move,” Ikoba said. “There are times where I just dribble forward, and I know that [Kunateh] typically makes this run, so I can just see him and find him with no problem, and it’s the same the other way around as well.”
The Big Green continued to get great, explosive runs from Ikoba and Matt Greer ’18 as the half progressed. A turning point came when Kunateh received a red card in the 25th minute. The expressive young forward made contact with a Princeton player and appeared to exchange some words before being sent off.
“A red card that I felt could’ve been a yellow, but it was a red. I thought it shook us a little bit,” Riley said. “It’s hard to have a calculated response when you have adversity like that, but we’ve dealt with adversity already this year. I think the guys responded very well.”
Dartmouth’s defense held its shape for the rest of the half, limiting Princeton to just three shots in the period as opposed to the Big Green’s five. To add on to the earlier red card, the Dartmouth bench earned a yellow card at halftime.
“We started off really well. We got the first goal, and then we got an unfortunate red card,” goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland ’16 said. “At that point, you’ve just got to stay compact, stay tight and then make everything go wide and defend the middle.”
Coming out of the break and playing down a man, the Big Green maintained a defensive formation. Princeton senior Thomas Sanner and junior Greg Seifert both had opportunities to score, but the efforts were either wide or saved by Cleveland, who had five saves in the game and tallied his fourth shutout of the season.
Princeton repeatedly had free kicks near the box and long runs on the wing, but the Big Green defense held strong against every Tiger effort. Princeton outshot Dartmouth eight shots to one in the second half, making for a game-wide 11-6 shooting advantage for the Tigers.
Despite the shot total, the Big Green was able to put together some offensive momentum throughout the period. Long runs down the sideline by Alex Marsh ’17 ate up clock time, and Cleveland turned back every one of Princeton’s efforts at the net.
“We did a hell of a job,” Cleveland said. “We didn’t give them any chances, and I didn’t really have to make any good saves. Much credit to the defense in that game.”
In the last 15 minutes, the Tigers pushed hard to get the ball up to take advantage of the man differential. Sanner had a header that threatened, but Princeton could not even the score with the Big Green.
The men’s soccer team faces the University of Vermont this Tuesday in Hanover before traveling to continue conference play in New Haven, Connecticut, against Yale University on Saturday.
“It’s a good win, but there are still six more to go,” Cleveland said.