Ask anyone before kickoff at Shaw Field on Wednesday afternoon for an honest prediction for the match and all of them would have said the same thing. No. 7 Georgetown (11-2-2, 7-0 Big East) was going to beat lowly, winless Seton Hall (0-13-1, 0-7 Big East), probably by several goals.
Instead of that blowout, Georgetown ended up playing its most thrilling match of the year, relying on two late equalizers and an overtime period to win 3-2 and prevent a shocking upset.
Senior forward Brandon Allen scored the game-tying and game-winning goals, and junior forward Alex Muyl set up all three scores for the Hoyas in the comeback victory.
The Hollywood-style drama started with the weather. The entire affair played out under gray skies and rain. In addition to providing the backdrop for all of the excitement, the conditions made the field slick.
Both teams had a sloppy opening half, frequently giving the ball away. Muyl hit the post from close range, but scoring opportunities were otherwise prevented by missed passes and slipping players.
“The field was heavy and a little slick, so that makes it a little harder for us. I think that evened it a bit,” Head Coach Brian Wiese said. “But you have to give Seton Hall a ton of credit.”
The slow, choppy play continued until the 71st minute when Seton Hall junior forward Danny Bartok hit an impressive volley from long distance to give his team a shocking 1-0 lead. That goal flipped a switch for the Hoyas, who immediately pressed for a goal of their own. They had a series of chances before a cross by Muyl found senior midfielder David Witkoff at the back post and tied the match.
Less than a minute later, the underdog Pirates took advantage of a miscue by freshman goalkeeper J.T. Marcinkowski to put themselves ahead once more. The keeper came out of the net to try to punch away a cross but was not in time, allowing the attacking player to head the ball over him and into the net with just 13 minutes remaining.
“To concede a goal instantly after [equalizing]? That could have instantly taken the air right out of you,” Wiese said.
Once again, however, the Hoyas responded, creating a number of chances before Muyl earned a penalty kick. The junior forward was free into the box when he went down just inside the 18-yard line. Allen took the chance and converted it low and to the left side of the net, tying the match at 2-2.
Seton Hall’s two goals were the first Georgetown has allowed in conference play this season. Its scoreless streak ended at 616 minutes, the longest in program history. Conceding twice late in the match could have had a negative impact on the players, but Muyl says the team just tried to stick to the game plan.
“When they score on us, it’s less about us changing the way we play. We know they change the way they play. They tried to put a lot of people in the box, and luckily we were able to equalize twice,” Muyl said.
The overtime period started much the same way regulation had ended, with Georgetown on the front foot. Then, a scary moment and a potentially serious injury to junior defender Joshua Yaro delayed the game for several minutes. Yaro, along with Marcinkowski and a Seton Hall forward, was involved in a three-person collision and had to be stretchered off the field with a cast around his leg.
“It’s terrible. He’s one of the best defenders in the country. … I just hope he’s all right,” Allen said.
Once play resumed, the Hoyas immediately had an open look at the net that nearly ended the match. Then, Muyl and junior midfielder Brett Campbell combined to find Allen in behind the Seton Hall defense. The senior forward calmly scored to the left of the keeper and won the match in the 96th minute.
Georgetown remains one of just two unbeaten teams in the Big East and has secured a first-round bye in the Big East tournament. Its impressive 7-0 conference record is a mark that the players were aware of after the match.
“I’m not surprised that the game was hard. It was difficult. But I am really proud of us that we were able to come back two times, win the game and keep 7-0,” Muyl said.
Muyl took on a crucial role for Georgetown on Wednesday afternoon. He created almost every chance the Hoyas had, including all three goals, and earned two assists. His undiminished work rate and constant involvement — he even helped carry the stretcher that took Yaro off the field — made him easily the most influential player on the field.
“He is a magnet for the ball. He is a magnet for making plays. He is just around it all the time,” Wiese said.
Georgetown will take the field again Saturday at Villanova. Kickoff against the Wildcats is set for 1 p.m.