Last Wednesday, with just three games remaining in the regular season, the No. 6 men’s soccer team (13-2-1, 4-2-0 Big East) knew that a win at Providence (3-8-2, 1-4-0 Big East) could prove essential to its conference title aspirations.
That would have to come in spite of the Friars’ pitch, which Head Coach Brian Wiese said was one of the worst in the country on which to play. Before the game, Wiese talked to his players before the game about the need to approach it like the U.S. national team did in its recent game in Antigua.
“[I told them,] ‘We don’t want to use the field as an excuse for why we don’t get a result,” Wiese said. “’We want to make sure the game was going to be won or lost because we were going to make some plays or they were going to make some plays, and that was it.’”
And just as the U.S. had done five days prior, the Hoyas came through with a late, dramatic goal against the Friars to seal the victory, as junior forward Steve Neumann scored in the 82nd minute of regulation to deliver the 1-0 win. It was Georgetown’s third victory in a row and advanced the team to third place in the stacked Big East Blue Division.
“It was a game that put us out of our comfort zone and didn’t give [us] the option to really play soccer,” Wiese said. “You had to compete in a very different kind of way, and as a result, the game was without any rhythm or flow to it.”
That lack of offensive rhythm was evident right from the start for both sides, with the teams combining for four fewer shots in the first half than there’d been in the Hoyas’ last outing against Marquette.
The game quickly became a sloppy one, with conditions preventing the Blue and Gray from stringing passes together and employing the kind of possession-based style that has become their trademark this season.
Georgetown’s four corner kicks represented its best opportunities to get on the board in the opening 45, but the squad failed to convert, and the halftime whistle blew to a 0-0 scoreboard.
Providence came out of the locker room rejuvenated, however, firing off three shots on goal in the first few minutes that forced sophomore goalkeeper Tomas Gomez into action.
Those wouldn’t be the last bullets Gomez would have to help his team dodge, and because of his side’s dearth of chances, it was critical that the Missouri native come up big between the pipes on Tuesday. Making his third- straight start since returning from a shoulder injury, Gomez did just that, recording seven total saves on the day to preserve the clean sheet in a game when his team needed it more than ever.
“[Gomez’s] ability to get himself back and available … has just been a remarkable feat on his part,” Wiese said, crediting goalkeeper coach Brian Gill as well as the training staff. “He’s been playing as well as he’s ever played, so maybe he just needed a little bit of a rest there to get him going, but he’s been spectacular the last couple weeks.”
As had been the case in the upset of then-No. 4 Marquette, Gomez’s superb effort in goal on Tuesday — which Wiese called “maybe the best game of his career” — allowed his team to hang around and eventually net the winner.
That decisive goal came off Neumann’s foot, who had skied a couple of earlier chances in the second half. With less than 10 minutes left in the contest, senior midfielder Ian Christianson sent a low cross in toward the six-yard box, and Neumann redirected it home to put the Hoyas up for good.
It was the fifth goal of the season for the reigning Big East offensive player of the week, as well as Neumann’s third in his last three times out. The Hoyas may have only had three shots on goal the entire game, but they made the most of the few opportunities that they’d created to gut out the victory.
“It was one of the hardest games we’ve had to play all year. [Providence is] not as bad as its record,” Wiese said, adding that the film they had watched of the Friars against Marquette suggested they were actually the better team. “The fact that we were able to come out of there with a win was a real testament to the guys’ ability to find ways to win and do it in ways that maybe we’re not fully comfortable doing.”
After a week’s break, the Blue and Gray will face Seton Hall (6-8, 2-3 Big East). Because of scheduling complications following West Virginia’s departure from the conference, the Hoyas and Pirates will square off in a home-and-home series to close out the season.
“It’s unique, and it’s going to be a challenge for us. It’s hard to beat a good team twice,” Wiese said. “But we’re going to approach it like it’s a Champions League scenario … The only difference [in this case] is that tying on the road isn’t necessarily a great thing. We have to get two wins.
First up for Georgetown will be the away fixture in South Orange, N.J., Wednesday. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.