How did a comfortable game end in a deluge of goals, multiple lead changes and a questionable refereeing decision? Fans on the Hilltop were left holding their breath and scratching their head simultaneously as the final seconds ticked down on their TV screens and phones.
Fortunately, their Georgetown Hoyas (1-0) managed to eke out a 3-2 victory over the Santa Clara Broncos (0-1) in both teams’ season opener. The visiting Hoyas, who had four players named to the preseason all-Big East team, showed off their high offensive motor but raised questions as to whether the team could find the same consistent form of yesteryear.
For the first twenty minutes, the answer seemed obvious. After winning the ball back on a bad first pass to open the game, sophomore midfielder Max Viera placed the ball perfectly in front of the Santa Clara back line. Senior midfielder Kyle Linhares, sandwiched between two defenders, outpaced his opposition and slipped the ball past Broncos goalkeeper Felix Schaefer for the fastest goal scored in school history just 13 seconds into the game.
Georgetown’s auspicious start continued as their flank attack generated numerous scoring chances against a hectic Santa Clara side. Although the Broncos pressed aggressively, their inability to lock down defensively allowed Linhares and sophomore midfielder Zach Zengue to dictate the pace of play. Additionally, foul trouble and ill-timed forward passes snuffed out any semblance of an offensive drive, handing the Hoyas an easy game plan of winning the ball back with ease and attempting to find the net.
Their dominating play materialized again in the 19th minute, as Zengue forced Schaefer into a bad pass, allowing sophomore forward Jacob Murrell to bury the goal for a 2-0 lead. The Broncos, in search of any solution to their poor play, made four substitutions while the Hoyas similarly rotated in new players to test them out in a game situation.
Santa Clara’s changes proved to be the jolt; forward Tyrone Kirunda and midfielder Martin Kwende Jr. supplied much-needed physicality and forced Georgetown into awkward positions on defense. Despite this, the Hoyas managed to keep a clean sheet through the half, thanks to a heroic save by senior goalkeeper Ryan Schewe in the 36th minute and a strong defense led by senior captain Kenny Nielsen.
As both teams traded dangerous chances to start the second half, Georgetown showed cracks in their play. Santa Clara’s defensive adjustments took away vital passing lanes and caused their opposition to play impatiently. A poor tug by sophomore defender Miles Avery culminated in a yellow card and sparked a drive that ended in a turbulent defense within the box helped only by an equally hurried strike.
The Hoyas started to settle in around the 50-minute mark. Second-half substitute and first-year midfielder Matthew Van Horn drove down the pitch off a bad giveaway to give Zengue a dangerous chance in the 56th minute, which was ultimately deflected for a corner. Just eight minutes later, sophomore midfielder Diego Letayf dispossessed Kirunda to start a chain of passes ending in a powerful Linhares shot stopped by an excellent save by Schaefer.
However, the Broncos finally managed a successful effort when two excellent through passes moved the ball away from a cluster of Georgetown players to forward Jesse Anamoo. While his first shot was blocked by an excellent save by Schewe, Anamoo slid the ball to midfielder Caden Buckley, who scored Santa Clara’s first goal in front of an empty net with 11:57 remaining. Still recovering from the initial goal, the Hoya defense left too much space for Bronco attackers to slide up the pitch, culminating in Buckley’s second goal just 34 seconds later.
At this point, both teams were scrambling for the ball at any opportunity, and all semblance of game plans were gone. Less than a minute later, a Georgetown clearance deflected off a Santa Clara player and necessitated another save to avoid a humiliating goal. Another yellow card immediately followed, and within half a minute, as the Broncos seemed ready to stampede over the Hoyas, the ball ended up under Murrell’s feet again. A glorious strike to the top left corner gave Georgetown a 3-2 lead in the 81st minute, and they would never look back. The game ended with little fanfare as both teams traded clearances, unable to break through for a good opportunity.
Georgetown lost to the Stanford Cardinals (2-0) 5-1 and will return home for its first Big East matchup against the Pittsburgh Panthers Sept. 1 at 4 p.m.