Men's soccer pulls out fifth straight win at home against Vermont

by Jake Philhower | 9/25/17 1:25am

by Michael Lin / The Dartmouth

The Big Green men’s soccer team has been lights-out of late, posting an impressive five straight wins. Its most recent 5-2 victory over the University of Vermont this past Saturday improved its season record to 5-2-0. Part of the reason for the team’s early success is first-year goalkeeper Christopher Palacios ’21. Even against the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, which was ranked 25th in the nation at the time, Palacios and the veteran backs of the Big Green were able to hold together a shutout 1-0 win.

Coming into freshman year at Dartmouth can be overwhelming. But while many ’21s are cramming for their first quizzes and adjusting to campus life, Palacios has been called upon by the Big Green and has come up big.

After an injury to Henry Stusnick ’20 in the season opener against then-No. 13 Michigan State University, Palacios came in and put together a shut-out second half. In fact, over 495 minutes of play this season, Palacios has only allowed one goal, which came against the University of Michigan.

Men’s soccer head coach Chad Riley said that Palacios’ performance has been even more impressive because he has made a lot of difficult situations look easy.

Palacios credited the Big Green’s defensive unit for his success, noting that the defenders helped him get acclimated to collegiate soccer.

“It’s a big help,” Palacios said. “This is one of the best back lines that I’ve ever played with. The upperclassmen know they have a lot of experience and help me so that I can help them and play the best that I can.”

The defensive efforts of the Big Green have proven to be crucial so far, pulling out many wins with just a one-goal differential. Riley and the team have had some nervous moments this season but have been able to pull out close wins time and time again, thanks to a defensive unit led by team captains Wyatt Omsberg ’18, Tyler Dowse ’18 and Matt Danilack ’18.

Despite Palacios’ success, Riley rested him on Saturday. Stusnick returned to goal for this past Saturday’s game against Vermont and played well despite giving up two goals. It remains unclear who will be playing in goal for the Big Green in key situations going forward, but Riley pointed out that it is important to always have two different goalkeepers who are able to step in at any time. Riley has been known to rotate goalkeepers in the past, as he split time between Stefan Cleveland ’16 and James Hickok ’17 in prior seasons.

Assistant coach and goalkeeper specialist Ryan Fahey was quick to note Palacios’ similarity to great goalkeepers in his focus on the basics.

“Even at the highest levels, they’re constantly working on technique,” Fahey said.

While the defense has thrived, generating offense has been difficult for the Big Green at times. However, its recent five-goal performance against the University of Vermont is promising — Tiger Graham ’21 posted two goals in a dominant win against UVM. Riley is optimistic the offense will come together in time.

“It’s just continuing to try to get to know one another better on the attack,” Riley said.

As the defending three-time Ivy League champs, Riley and the Big Green knew a target would be on their back coming into the season. Despite this pressure to perform, the Big Green has excelled and seems to be hitting its stride just in time for its Ivy League opener this Saturday at home against Princeton University. Despite a one-game-at-a-time approach, the team has had an eye on this matchup for a while.

“We like to think of our league as a double-elimination tournament,” Riley said. “If you lose two games, you don’t tend to have much of a chance of winning it.”

Once league play begins, every matchup becomes vital. The road to a fourth-straight Ivy League Championship starts this weekend. Despite some remaining questions as to whether the team can generate consistent offense or who will be starting in goal for the Big Green, it still looks primed to give a strong showing this season.