The American University women’s soccer team (5-5-1, 2-1-1) won their second straight conference fixture by pushing past Army West Point (4-5-3, 1-1-2) 1-0 in front of the largest home crowd since 2010.
The match grew stagnant after the Eagles and the Black Knights couldn’t break the back-and-forth tempo for the first 68 minutes. Most of the stalemate consisted of half-chances and defensive maneuvering. The leveled score broke, however, when junior midfielder Emily Smith cut to her right foot and scored the game-winning shot.
While the game was largely a battle of the defenses, the two sides had their fair share of offensive opportunities. The best one came in the 79th minute after first-year midfielder Brooke Steel and senior midfielder Tate Jordan combined for a cheeky pass to an open Smith to the left of the box. It was the midfielder’s first goal since Oct. 19, 2019.
“We talked to the girls about making sure that you don't rely on other people to create things,” head coach Marsha Harper said postgame. “Emily decided to run as opposed to hoping that her teammate did it right, so I think just committing to making sure that you're the one that's going to create the chance for us.”
This victory was by no means an easy feat. In the first half, Army outshot AU by 4-3 shots, which forced the Eagles’ defensive line to come up with some big-time blocks. The game proved to also be a physical affair between the two rivals with 12 total fouls, including a yellow card given to veteran fifth-year defender Asia Horne, throughout the course of play.
“The first thing we did this week was defending, and then just back to the basics and making sure they understand they should take [it] personally,” Harper said. “We [also] need to have people surrounding the ball with at least two options for the teammate that's on the ball, and I think you saw that with the sequence [and] the third woman run into the box.”
AU knew it was vital to stick to their game plan after Smith’s goal, knowing the Black Knight’s relentless style of play, and finish out the rest of the 90 minutes.
“Today we all played really, really well from the back to the front,” Smith said. “Defending and attacking from the back to the front was just really good, and we were really hungry for this one [so] it was really exciting to get.”
For the Eagles, the key was maintaining composure in the face of an unbeaten Army in Patriot League play.
“We talked about prior to the game, playing a complete 90 minutes and understanding that there's going to be highs and lows in the game but staying calm through the lows and then creating those highs,” Harper said.
This game was a memorable one for AU’s women’s soccer program. The Eagles haven’t conquered the Black Knights since Oct. 11, 2009 when AU scraped by 2-1. Harper also clinched her first at-home win as head coach since joining the squad last spring.
AU’s victory couldn’t have come on a better day than playing in front of 915 fans — the highest attendance for a women’s soccer match since the 1,511 fans that turned out for the game against Georgetown on Aug. 21, 2010.
“The fact that they're basically the top scoring team in the league right now and the last time we played them in the spring, we lost 0-5, it's just a big win for us and will help us push momentum forward in the next few games,” Horne said. “It was just a great day to win.”
AU will look to continue their winning ways on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET when they face off against their northern conference rivalry Boston University.