Men’s soccer blanks Northeastern University 2-0 at home
The No. 22 men’s soccer team continued its winning ways, defeating non-conference foe Northeastern University 2-0 at Burnham Field on Tuesday evening. The victory — the Big Green’s eighth in its last nine contests, including five straight victories at home — improves Dartmouth’s overall record to 10-4-1, while it maintains an undefeated 5-0 Ivy League record. Despite a first half in which Northeastern (3-12-2, 2-6-0 CAA) outshot Dartmouth 10 to two, the Big Green regrouped and came out firing in the second half with Amadu Kunateh ’19 and Eduvie Ikoba ’19 both netting goals to grab the two-goal victory.
“Our challenge in a mid-week [game] is having all 29 guys focused on getting a performance and a result,” head coach Chad Riley said. “At this time of the year you want to be doing both of those things — you want to play well, but you also want to win. I was proud of the whole group for being very focused for this game.”
Northeastern started out strong with a series of attacks to begin the first half. None of the Huskies’ 10 shots found their target, as goalkeeper James Hickok ’17 performed exceedingly well and kept the ball out of the net, despite some great chances for Northeastern. Hickock finished the game with five saves, significantly higher than Northeastern’s single save throughout the competition.
“I thought [Hickok] had a great game,” Riley said. “I really do. He was composed back there in some scary moments. I think he came off his line well, and he handled some crosses and direct kicks very well.”
In front of him, Dartmouth’s defense held firm after the opening minutes and was able to handle Northeastern’s forwards. After the opening minutes neither team took complete control for the remainder of the half, and both defenses stopped any potential danger, leaving the score tied at no goals.
The team, however, is no stranger to a slower first half of a game, as several of this season’s victories have come from goals made late in the match. Hickok said that making sure the team focuses throughout the entire 90 minutes and not letting a scoreless beginning slow its momentum have been key to this season’s success.
“A lesson we’ve learned all season long is that you’ve got to keep believing throughout the entire game, the full 90 minutes,” Hickok said. “Multiple times this season we haven’t scored until late, sometimes even the last minute, but we’ve found a way to get it done. We just need to keep our focus for the full 90 minutes, and we have the talent to beat teams.”
This focus in the last half of the game is what brought the Big Green its victory. After the halftime break, the Big Green took control of the game, consistently keeping play on Northeastern’s half of the field. Although the game remained scoreless for much of the second half, Dartmouth successfully pushed the ball up the field on multiple occasions, setting up crosses into the box and shots on goal.
On one of these surges, Alberto Gorini ’16 held the ball in the top corner of the box and lobbed a pass to Kunateh in front of the goal. With the ball still in the air, Kunateh, whose back was to the goal, kicked the ball over his head into the net for a low bicycle kick in the 74th minute. Kunateh’s acrobatic goal gave Dartmouth the first lead of the match and ended up the game-winner, marking the second consecutive game that Kunateh has scored the winning goal.
“It surprised everybody on the field,” Hickok said. “The [Northeastern] goalie didn’t even move because it was something they definitely did not expect. [Kunateh] just made it happen. He got the ball in the net, and that’s what it took.”
With the one-goal lead, Dartmouth refused to relent, upping the pressure in an effort to slot another goal before time expired. The opportunity presented itself in the 84th minute when Ikoba took the ball at the top of the box, dribbled between two defenders and sent the ball into the top left corner of the goal.
“I thought it was a good team victory,” Ikoba said. “We struggled at the beginning, but we realized that we had the ability to switch the flow of the game. I think it was good that we could overcome the small adversity we had at the beginning of the game.”
The Big Green will continue its season on Saturday, Nov. 7, at Burnham Field against Cornell University (4-10-1, 2-3 Ivy). Currently in solo possession of first place in the conference standings, Dartmouth has an opportunity to clinch its second consecutive Ivy League title if the team comes out with a victory against fifth-place Cornell.