Men’s soccer cruises against Fordham 2-0
In the schools’ first meeting, the men’s soccer team beat Fordham University 2-0 at Burnham Field. After a deadlocked first half, the Big Green (3-2-1, 0-0-0 Ivy) reevaluated its strategy, then capitalized on a few key opportunities to seal a victory.
On an unusually warm fall afternoon, with temperatures in the low 80s, the game started off slowly for the Big Green, as both teams struggled to take control of the midfield.
Both teams played reserved styles in the first half, as they sought to impose their game plans on an unfamiliar opponent.
As with all match-ups against unfamiliar teams, defenseman Nick Rooney ’15 said, the Big Green focused on its own performance rather than worry about what the team was bringing in.
“It’s not about the other team so much as it’s about playing to the level that we should be able to play at,” he said.
Head coach Chad Riley said that tight first halves will likely be a trend for the Big Green this season.
It was only in the locker room between the first and second half that the Big Green made the necessary adjustments to take the win.
“We were pretty adamant at halftime about switching things up, getting a little more aggressive on the attacking side of the play, really starting to create some chances, and to our offense’s credit, we really got in there and got after it,” Rooney said.
This meant not only changing the tempo, but also some of the players. Dartmouth made some important lineup adjustments mid-game to better dictate the pace, swapping in Tommy Johnson ’15 and Eric Jayne ’15, who both recorded points for the Big Green in the second half.
“And then we just simplified everything, so it was energy, simple — get the ball wide, get crosses in the box, and we knew that was going to cause them trouble,” Riley said.
That push of energy was a crucial component of the team’s second half offensive onslaught.
The Big Green’s first notch on the scoreboard came as Rooney headed home a goal off of a well-placed throw-in by Johnson in the 53rd minute.
“Long throws are always a good chance for us,” Rooney said, noting that he told Johnson he wanted it deeper toward the goal.
The second goal of the day for the Big Green came fewer than 20 minutes later, with Jayne netting his third goal of the season. Alnas and Jayne ran a give-and-go that ended just inside the box where Jayne slammed the goal home. Hugh Danilack ’15 was also credited with an assist on the play.
“I thought our fitness, our preparation, our guys taking care of the details really let us push the last,” Riley said.
Goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland ’16 pushed up his record to 3-2-1 with a shutout on Saturday. Cleveland, who had split time with James Hickok ’17, has played full matches in the last four games now with two shutouts coming in those last four.
Big Green players say they are optimistic about this season, especially as they look to Ivy League play, beginning with an away game against Princeton University on Saturday.
Midfielder Gabe Hoffman-Johnson ’14 pointed to a high number of returning players and a talented freshman class as strengths, and said last season’s 1-6 Ivy League disappointment was a turning point for the Big Green.
“We have high goals, which we always do — we didn’t reach them least season,” Hoffman-Johnson said. “Our first two games this year were against two teams who won the national championship last year and the year before. We played with them, we played pretty well and we’ve proved to ourselves that we can compete at that level so we expect to do well.”
The Big Green looks to make the NCAA tournament this season, pointing at upcoming Ivy League match-ups as critical to their hopes.
Hoffman-Johnson also acknowledged the Big Green fans as a major source of inspiration for the team.
“Best fans in the nation, honestly you start to realize that when you go other places — there’s nobody there,” Hoffman-Johnson said. “Growing up in New England and having friends on different teams, you hear about how much they hate coming to play us at home because they just get heckled the whole time. It makes us more pumped to get out and play in front of these guys.”
The team returns to action with a game at the University of Vermont on Wednesday and a game at Princeton on Saturday. It then comes home to face Central Connecticut State University on Tuesday, Oct. 7.