MEN'S SOCCER | Georgetown Through to College Cup
Comeback against San Diego books first-ever Final Four appearance
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Updated: Friday, December 7, 2012 00:12
The goal all season was the Big East tournament semis. As the Georgetown men’s soccer team (19-3-2, 6-3-0 Big East) hits the road again next weekend, though, it finds itself on the brink of an even greater accomplishment.
Carrying lessons from their Big East tournament hardship with them, the Blue and Gray completed a dramatic second-half comeback Saturday in their Elite Eight matchup with San Diego (14-9-0, 9-3-0 West Coast Conference), as late goals from freshman forward Melvin Snoh and senior midfielder Andy Riemer helped book a spot in the program’s first-ever Final Four.
“We’re just proud to be Hoyas,” Riemer said afterward. “We’re proud to be the first Hoya team to get to the Final Four, and we’re going to keep on making history and continue this streak as long as possible.”
Buoyed by a packed house that left a good portion of the raucous crowd outside the North Kehoe gates, Georgetown dominated the run of play in the first half. Still, legitimate opportunities on goal proved hard to come by for either side, as the teams combined for just six first-half shots.
San Diego managed to generate the two best looks of the opening 45, but both curling attempts would ultimately clear sophomore goalkeeper Tomas Gomez’s crossbar. Despite owning the better share of possession in the period, the Hoyas went into the break in a precarious position, having left the door dangerously open for the Toreros.
“In the first half, we really didn’t feel like we got in behind them well — we didn’t get really good chances,” said centerback Tommy Muller, a senior captain who missed the Sweet 16 game against Syracuse due to injury. “The message going into the second half was to keep the ball but keep the tempo high; let’s get forward, and let’s try to get some chances.”
The Blue and Gray began to do just that when play resumed, but the goal that came in the 50th minute wouldn’t be their reward. Instead, it was San Diego — threatening on set pieces all throughout the game — that beat Gomez on a corner-kick header from redshirt junior defender Julian Ringhof to silence the Hoya faithful and take a surprising lead.
As was the case against Syracuse, however, falling behind may have been just the jolt that Georgetown needed. This time around, the Toreros lent a hand in the comeback effort, as a lofted free kick from junior forward Steve Neumann fortuitously found the head of an opposing defender for the equalizing own goal.
What was perhaps a more rewarding tally came in the 73rd minute, as a brilliant ball from Neumann across the goalmouth found freshman supersub Melvin Snoh, who scored his first career goal in clutch fashion to put Georgetown up for the first time on the day.
“I just beat my guy to the spot, Steve put it in the right place and I was there to finish it off,” Snoh said.
Seeing Snoh — the lone substitute used in Georgetown’s second-round win over Charlotte — come through in such a big situation was no surprise to his teammates.
“Melvin’s always ready,” Riemer said. “Melvin has shown that he’s been ready since preseason — all of our freshmen have. They’ve stepped up and not played like freshmen. They’ve played like upperclassmen.”
Indeed, rookie defenders Keegan Rosenberry and Cole Seiler likewise showed no signs of their inexperience on Saturday, but it was the older Hoyas who were most essential in securing the win.
Neumann, named a Hermann Trophy semifinalist last Wednesday, was a particularly large force against the Toreros with his movement and vision. He was once again in the thick of things with around five minutes left in the contest, as junior striker Gabe Padilla ran a well-orchestrated breakaway and set a goal up on a silver platter for the Pennsylvanian. But, in one of his few miscues of the day, Neumann’s one-timed left-footed shot missed the empty goal to keep things at a tenuous 2-1.
After another nicely played ball by Neumann in the 88th minute, Riemer showed a bit more composure. Hitting the post from inside the six-yard box, he calmly collected his own rebound and slotted home the insurance goal to seal passage to the next round and bring the house down.
“We all know Neumann’s a world-class finisher, and [his miss] wasn’t a problem for us,” Riemer said. “We knew that we were going to get another chance, and Neumann was nice enough to pass me the ball there, and I was lucky enough to get that finish.”
From there, Georgetown only had to play the waiting game, as the fans counted down the final 10 seconds before storming the field. And having pulled off a feat hitherto unaccomplished in team history, there was ample reason to celebrate.
Going into the season unranked and unheralded following a disappointing, tourney-less 2011 campaign, expectations were low. Stars like Ben Slingerland and Uche Onyeador were lost to graduation, and even with established standouts like Neumann and senior central midfielder Ian Christianson, the Blue and Gray lineup featured a number of question marks.
As a result, the Hoyas weren’t supposed to be here.
Unless, that is, you were to have asked them.
“It was something where we knew how good we were [coming into the season], whether the country thought it or not,” Muller said.
If Georgetown’s Big East regular season crown and tournament finals appearance hadn’t already done the trick, it’s safe to say that Muller and Co.’s Final Four berth now has the American soccer community at full attention.