CHRIS GRIVAS/THE HOYA A bending free kick from junior forward Steve Neumann gave the Blue and Gray a 1-0 lead 25 minutes into its Big East quarterfinal game on Saturday.
CHRIS GRIVAS/THE HOYA
A bending free kick from junior forward Steve Neumann gave the Blue and Gray a 1-0 lead 25 minutes into its Big East quarterfinal game on Saturday.

Since this season began, the Georgetown men’s soccer team has had one goal in mind: to reach the Big East tournament semifinals at Red Bull Arena. If they got there, the Hoyas knew, anything would be possible.

With Saturday’s 2-1 quarterfinal win over No. 13 St. John’s (10-4-4), the No. 4 Blue and Gray (16-2-1) is headed to New Jersey — and can now set its eyes on even bigger goals.

“If you can win the league, you can win the whole thing,” Head Coach Brian Wiese said. “In fact, it may be harder to win this league than to win the NCAA [championship].”

Georgetown will have its chance at the first of those two crowns next weekend thanks to a fitting bit of revenge over the conference’s top program in the Red Storm. St. John’s claimed its seventh Big East tournament title last year, putting an end to Georgetown’s season in the first round.

Buoyed by a decent traveling contingent, the visitors forced the usually tidy Blue and Gray into some uncharacteristic giveaways in the early going Saturday and looked as if they might put on a repeat performance.

But in the 13th minute, the hosts’ first well-worked combination led to a rip of a shot by junior forward Steve Neumann that went just wide right. It was clear at this point that Wiese’s side had woken up. Twelve minutes later, that awakening would result in the game’s first goal.

Following a foul just outside the opposing box, Neumann was again at the center of the action, taking the ensuing free kick and sending a beautiful, curling shot off the underside of the crossbar and over the line.

It was a bit of deja vu for the Pennsylvanian, who had hit nearly the exact same shot last week against Seton Hall only to have that goal go unrecognized by the linesman.

This time, there was no mistake.

“Again, I wasn’t sure if they were going to count it, but this one looked a little bit more obvious than the last one,” Neumann said. “It just felt great to take the lead.”
Freshman central defender Cole Seiler was dominant in the air to help maintain that advantage until the break. Just over two minutes into the second half, though, sophomore goalkeeper Tomas Gomez cut out an oncoming Red Storm attacker in the box and was called for a penalty, which was coolly converted to even the score.

“The team could’ve fallen apart after you [allow] the goal. You see [St. John’s has] got momentum, they’re pushing, they’re going, it’s 1-1,” Wiese said. “But [we] keep going.”

And in the 65th minute, Georgetown’s perseverance paid off.

A nicely struck free kick from senior midfielder Ian Christianson was turned aside by the St. John’s keeper, redshirt junior Rafael Diaz, but senior left back Jimmy Nealis collected the rebound near the right corner flag and sent it back into the box. Amidst a sea of gray and red, freshman forward Brandon Allen bundled the cross home from close range to put his team ahead, 2-1.

“The play [came from] Nealis’ not panicking in that moment, and he puts a smart ball into the mix,” Wiese said. “The ball stays alive, and Brandon somehow gets another goal out of it.”

The work was far from done at that stage in the game, however, as it was up to a workmanlike effort from Georgetown’s defense to preserve the team’s narrow edge.

The Red Storm fired off five shots in the second half, but Gomez was all heart when called upon. The sophomore’s biggest moment came with only a minute and change remaining, when he acrobatically denied an attacker near-post from inside the six-yard box to keep the game from going to overtime.

“Tomas makes a great save [at the end],” senior defender Tommy Muller said. “You have to have a good keeper to win games and to go places.”

As if it weren’t clear enough before, Gomez — who’s appeared in several games for the United States U-20 national team — is better than good. And Georgetown is already going places too, beginning with the trip to Harrison, N.J., on Thursday.

“We’ve been talking about how this has been our goal all year, and to finally get it done is good, but we definitely need to keep working,” Neumann said. “We’re looking forward to the opportunity to keep going in this tournament.”

So while Red Bull Arena may have been the expectation on the Blue and Gray’s roadmap since the start of season, it is clear that it will not be the final destination.

The next game will be against Marquette Nov. 9 at 5 p.m.

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