Eagles bring one home, 3-0
Must-win out-of-conference games in October don't come around too often. But with AU Men's Soccer trapped in a four game losing skid, Wednesday's home clash with Princeton was just that.
The Eagles rose to the challenge, playing their most complete game of the year in a 3-0 win at Reeve's Field. AU moves to 4-7-1 with the win, but are still 0-3 in the Patriot League.
"It's been a long time coming back, and it's been frustrating," said junior forward Andrew Herman. "We've been out-shooting and outplaying a lot of teams, but not getting our breaks like we did today."
Herman was one of the players answering challenges on Wednesday. Despite being AU's second leading scorer, the forward started the game on the bench, an omission intended as a message from head coach Todd West. Herman eventually came in midway through the first half, and answered the message by creating one goal and scoring another.
"We think Andrew can be a very good player for us," said West afterwards of the line-up decision. "But there are things we think he needs to work on, and when he doesn't, that is what happens."
Herman created the first goal, ultimately the game winner, by drawing a penalty kick just two minutes before halftime. Junior midfielder Peter Philipakos started the move finding Herman inside the 18-yard box playing a ball from the left wing. Herman turned and dribbled past Princeton defender Jeff Hare, who then took the AU forward down.
Junior midfielder Shawn Kuykendall took the resulting penalty shot, finishing easily past Tiger 'keeper Erik White.
"I told the team at halftime that there was no asterisk on that goal," West said of the penalty kick. "Either Herman gets behind the defense and scores, or the defender takes him down."
"He definitely got a piece of me," Herman said of the foul. "The referee was in good position, and with Shawn Kuykendall taking our PL's, I feel pretty confident if someone takes me down in the box."
Herman then scored AU's second goal 18 minutes into the second half on a lightning quick counter attack started by senior defender Brett Niebling. He blasted a long ball out of the AU defensive half straight onto the run of Herman, who was streaking behind the Princeton back line. Herman finished past White to double the score, hitting the right post for good measure.
"It was a great ball by Niebling," said Herman. "I got a nice bounce, but my heart skipped a beat for a second," when it hit the post.
Only four minutes later, in the 67th minute, junior midfielder David Marut nailed the coffin shut, scoring on a 25-yard dipping shot that beat White to the near post, after receiving a pass from freshman midfielder Sal Caccavale. AU was finally back in the win column 23 minutes after that.
"There's still a lot of growing up to be done on this team," a relieved West said. "When they decide to play as a team, we're pretty good. But when they try to play like twenty individuals trying to make all conference, we're not so good."
AU had better do the former if they want to reach the postseason. With four games left in PL play, the Eagles probably need to go undefeated and finish in the top half of the league to get a playoff spot.
"That's our goal right now," West said. "Who knows what can happen, but our attitude is that we must win out. In order to do that, we have to win Saturday verse Colgate."
Perhaps Herman described AU's Homecoming match a little better.
"Saturday is do or die," Herman said.