Men’s soccer falls short against the Mountaineers
D.C. heat wave takes a toll on Eagles’ success
American University men’s soccer (0-2-1) lost to the West Virginia Mountaineers (4-0) 2-1 at Reeves Field on Sept. 5. The game, originally scheduled for 4 p.m., was pushed up to 11:30 a.m. due to expected heat index values of up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit in the D.C. area.
The match started with three fouls in the first three minutes, two against the Mountaineers and one against the Eagles, proving tempers to be as high as the temperature, a theme that continued throughout the game.
The Mountaineers quickly set the pace of the match with forwards Sam Nyenka and Yutaro Tsukada getting shots on target at eight and 10 minutes respectively, but American sophomore goalkeeper Matthew Tibbetts blocked both shots. AU attempted to match that pace with senior midfielder Ethan Boyle’s shot on goal a minute later, but the score remained 0-0 with a save by Mountaineers goalkeeper Jackson Lee.
“One of our strengths is our ability to be patient with the ball, but we didn’t really show that in this game,” head coach Zach Samol said. “The way West Virginia defended just made the game go fast, so we had some moments where we did go fast and we created some high quality chances, but it took us out of our tempo and rhythm that we generally want to be in.”
Twenty minutes into the first half both teams took a water break, and the Mountaineers returned from that break energized, with Marcus Caldeira scoring a goal two minutes later punching their lead 1-0 against the Eagles.
American was quick to fire back, equalizing with a cross from senior defender Nevin Baer, which connected with junior forward Sam Hershey, who headed the ball into the goal, forcing the Mountaineers to give up their first goal this season.
The second half of the match started off slower than the first, largely dominated by WVU. Within the first 15 minutes of the half, the Mountaineers had 6 shots to the Eagles’ 1. On their seventh shot, WVU midfielder Otto Ollikainen scored a header at the back post off of a corner kick, putting them back in the lead 2-1.
In the second half, the Eagles looked to be miscommunicating, with many passes falling short or too far ahead of their targets.
“One of our weaknesses is sometimes we lose our quality at the end, especially today with the heat, we got very tired,” Tibbets said. “If we can focus on fixing those mistakes and not dropping the quality we would improve as a team.”
Despite the miscommunications, AU’s offense fought hard in the final 20 minutes of the game to equalize the score, maintaining a lot of possession, but to no avail. Tibbetts emerged as a key player in the match, getting a career high of 7 saves of the 9 shots on goal and facing 14 shots overall, despite the final 2-1 score.
“We want to be able to step on teams a little bit better and turn them over, I just think a little bit of our quality was missing today,” Samol said. “Maybe it was just an off day — playing at 11:30 a.m. was different for our guys, plus the heat — it wasn’t our best day of soccer. That’s the stuff I can’t control.”
The Eagles travel to Philadelphia on Sept. 8 to face the Temple University Owls at 4 p.m.
This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Delaney Hoke and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis.