By: Liam O’Murchu
GW men’s football started to play strong with Atlantic 10, earning a 1-0 victory over Davidson on Saturday afternoon.
The Colonials (3-2-2, 1-0 A-10) were mediocre at times but got their first clean sheet of the season. The team was propelled by a goal from graduate student Oscar Haynes Brown, who missed the last two games through injury.
“At the end of the day, I didn’t think we played well.” said GW head coach Craig Jones. “I was on the other side where we played very well and didn’t win any games. But when you keep a clean sheet, you have a chance.
Neither team could find a rhythm early on, and the first good chance came to Davidson’s freshman midfielder Baylen Young in the 18th minute. Young found himself on the end of a cross from striker Denis Krioutchenkov but pushed the shot wide while firing a warning shot at the Colonials.
The Wildcats had a lot of success getting behind GW’s left side all day, and that chance from Young was the first manifestation of that.
Kriuchenkov came from behind in the 30th minute and was 1-1 with GW senior goalkeeper Justin Grady before junior defender Lucas Matuszewski came on and saved the day. It was one of many fires the Pittsburgh transfer lit in the game, and he celebrated his strong defensive game in the only way he knows how. With a celebratory cry that sounds like something you’d hear on a battlefield.
“I think it just comes from the love of the game.” Matuszewski said of his passion on the court. “I can appreciate it more when I make a good tackle or my teammate makes a good tackle. And I use that energy to build and help my team build as well. I know guys love it and I’m not going to stop doing it.
Matuszewski’s vocal leadership…should we call him…has been important for GW this season, setting the tone for the rest of the team and ensuring the team plays with energy. It doesn’t hurt that he’s among the best 1-on-1 defenders on the team, paired with elite ball ability in the air (which is confirmed when you realize he’s 6’5) .
The Buff & Blue began to apply more pressure with around 10 minutes to go in the first half, with senior midfielder Tom Cooklin stepping into dangerous areas. In the 34th minute, the Englishman played a tantalizing cross that first-year striker Alex Nicholson couldn’t get his foot on.
Four minutes later, the Colonials executed a clever short free-kick routine that allowed senior midfielder Roee Tenne to beat his man and curl a left-footed shot that looked destined to shake the bag of onions before a Davidson defender heads for a corner.
Davidson came back to it and won the ball back in a dangerous area in the 42nd minute. The Wildcats took the ball to the baseline, crossed it and saw the ball bounce into the area. The ball hit the hand of a GW defender but the referee failed to call a penalty.
Coming out of halftime, Davidson continued to be the better team. Their best early chance came in the 50th minute when Young was left wide open at the back post but got the shot. A minute later, junior midfielder Maddux Reece curled a shot outside the far post. GW had to clear it quickly or they would end up on an objective.
Fortunately, Cooklin was well aware of this fact as well. He made his way past a Davidson defender on the right wing and played a nice ball into the space between the defense and the goalkeeper. At the end of the cross was none other than Haynes Brown, who could score a tap-in like this in his sleep. Score he made and he then celebrated by running around the corner and being mobbed by his teammates.
It was Haynes Brown GW’s 34th career goal, tying him for fifth in the program’s all-time goalscoring record. The goal energized GW and cut the wind from the Wildcats’ sails. However, Davidson still insisted and the Colonials had to preserve the result.
But the Buff & Blue got their chance in the 65th minute. They devised a corner kick routine with Matuszewski moving away from the mass of the body and Cooklin sinking a knee-high ball. Unfortunately for GW, Matuszewski blew on the shot and remains with a goal in Buff & Blue.
Davidson continued to have success on his right wing, delivering dangerous cross after dangerous cross. One of their best chances came in the 72nd minute when second-year defender Sai Tummala couldn’t get on the end of a dangerous ball in front of goal.
GW had a few shaky moments on set pieces late but managed to walk away unscathed. They had a chance to double their lead in the 87th minute when Haynes Brown was rewarded for his pressure, turning Davidson around and going 1-1 with the goalkeeper. He tried to nest it in the side netting at the far post, but he slid under the ball too much and sent it over the net.
After that, it was smooth sailing for the Colonials as they went 1-0 in the A-10 game this year. At the final whistle, the GW players followed Matuszewski’s lead and gave a collective shout of celebration, showing what the result meant for the team.
It’s a great result for the team, even if it’s not their best performance. The fact that the team held a clean sheet for the first time this season was particularly significant. If they can replicate those kinds of defensive performances and continue the strong offensive output from earlier this year, they will be a factor in the Atlantic 10 this season.