The Georgetown men’s soccer team’s offense finally broke through, scoring three goals Monday afternoon. After 300 scoreless minutes against unranked opponents, including a 1-0 loss to Akron (3-1) on Friday, junior forward Brett Campbell scored twice and sophomore midfielder Matthew Ledder netted the eventual game-winner in a 3-1 home win. This time, however, their opponent was not another unranked team. It was No. 1 UCLA (2-2-1).
Entering the weekend, the Hoyas knew they would be missing some key players. The back line, especially, had been thinned out, with senior defender and co-captain Josh Turnley and junior defender Joshua Yaro both questionable. The two defenders each missed Friday’s match, though Turnley would return to play Monday.
The home opener for No. 12 Georgetown (1-2-1) kicked off Friday afternoon against Akron. From the opening whistle, the Zips pressed the Hoya defense. Freshman goalkeeper J.T. Marcinkowski made five saves in the first half to keep his team in the game, including a diving save of a penalty kick in the 12th minute.
“I looked over to [junior forward] Alex Muyl because he has been teammates with the player who was kicking it,” Marcinkowki said. “He told me to dive to my left, and luckily he went to my left.”
Despite a better performance by the Hoyas in the second half, Akron finally beat Marcinkowski, scoring the game winner in the 63rd minute. The loss continued a disappointing 0-2-1 start to the season.
“We were in one of those things where [we said] ‘What do we have to do?’ We got outplayed against Akron. Akron was better than us on the day,” Head Coach Brian Wiese said.
Georgetown entered its second game of Labor Day weekend missing key players — Yaro would not play Monday, and senior defender and co-captain Cole Seiler was a game time decision — and having endured a series of poor performances. Its opponent would not be any easier, either. Wiese and his coaching staff focused on making key changes to prepare for the top-ranked team in the nation.
“[Assistant coaches] Brian Gil and Zach Samol did an amazing job in the 72 hours between Akron and today to work on a couple things we weren’t doing well. And the guys executed it today really, really well,” Wiese said.
Those changes extended to the starting line-up, as well. Veteran seniors Turnley and Seiler made it back from injury to start the game, while Ledder and freshman defender Brendan McDonough both made their first career starts.
On the field, Georgetown held a deeper defensive line and pressed the ball in the midfield in order to counter the elite speed of the UCLA forwards. The strategy worked, and the Bruins’ attack remained largely silent. Sophomore midfielder Christopher Lema played especially well, breaking up UCLA attacks in the midfield before they even began.
While the defense held strong, the Georgetown offense created the majority of chances in the first half. Crisp passing put pressure on the opposing defense, with the Hoyas outshooting the Bruins six to two in the half. Campbell came on as a sub in the 36th minute and scored in the 38th, when he buried a deflected cross low and to the right of the keeper.
“It feels awesome,” Campbell said. “It was truly a team win. … Some guys on the bench were able to come in and come up big. It feels great to get a win after kind of a slow start.”
The second half began with the score still at 1-0, and the team had received halftime instructions from Wiese to go out and get a second goal. That’s exactly what it did, when Ledder redirected a free kick up and over the goalkeeper and into the net.
UCLA pressed the Georgetown defense for much of the rest of the half, even pulling a goal back in the 71st minute. The back line did just enough, however, and the forwards continued to threaten on the counterattack. That threat paid off in the 88th, when Campbell netted his second after a three-on-two attack left him wide open in front of goal. That would be the day’s final goal, and the match ended at 3-1.
The win was much needed by the Hoyas, who improve to 1-2-1. With an impressive win under its belt, the team can look forward to the rest of the season with newfound confidence.
“[The players] were all saying it there at the end. ‘Let’s not lose from here on out.’ I’m not sure if that’s realistic, but I love that mentality. Versus ‘Let’s see if we can get a goal today.’ There’s a big difference that 90 minutes can make,” Wiese said.
Large crowds attended both matches, with the student fans especially involved Monday afternoon. Friday’s game set the Shaw Field student attendance record with 905, which was promptly broken Monday by 933 student fans. For both Wiese and the players, the crowds are a welcome sight and an advantage on the field.
“The crowd was awesome. It kind of gave us some extra motivation,” Campbell said. “The crowd was able to lift us when things didn’t seem great.”