MEN'S SOCCER | Hoyas Advance in Heated Second-Round Affair
Published: Monday, November 19, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 00:11
Whether in basketball, soccer or any other sport, “survive and advance” has long been the name of the game in the NCAA tournament. Sunday’s second-round slugfest between No. 3 seed Georgetown (18-3-1, 6-2-0 Big East) and Charlotte (15-4-3, 7-1-1 Atlantic 10), though, gave that term a new meaning.
In a highly physical contest that featured five yellow cards, one ejection and 21 fouls apiece, the Hoyas were able to grind out a 1-0 win on a 43rd-minute goal from freshman striker Brandon Allen to make it through to the Sweet 16.
“It was unbelievable,” junior forward and co-captain Steve Neumann said of his team’s effort. “We knew we had a tough opponent here — Charlotte, the national finalists last year — but we had our home crowd behind us, and we all came out and battled."
A tournament atmosphere was installed right from the opening whistle, as the packed house of nearly 900 fans — including a small but rowdy traveling contingent from Charlotte — was the largest and loudest at North Kehoe Field this season.
The play on the field mirrored the heightened stakes as well, with neither squad willing to concede much early in the way of offensive chances. The opportunities first started to flow after the half-hour mark, when Neumann rifled a left-footed shot just past the top corner from outside the box.
The intensity rose further shortly thereafter, both in terms of the game itself and in terms of a little extracurricular activity between senior midfielder Ian Christianson and a 49er player. No cards would be shown, however, and Christianson and his teammates would have the last laugh when Allen put the Blue and Gray up just a couple minutes later.
Originally attributed to another freshman, right back Keegan Rosenberry, the goal came off of a well-placed Neumann corner kick toward the top of the box, as Rosenberry hit a half-volley to the far post for Allen to head home.
But the visitors did not lie down, their aggression mounting en route to four second-half yellows, one of which resulted in a costly, comeback-stunting red that put them down to 10 men in the 80th minute.
“Any time you have to end someone’s season, it’s hard, no matter whom you’re playing,” Head Coach Brian Wiese said. “I was really happy with the fact that we were able to play a kind of soccer game that we don’t want to play, but we were able to do it and survive and win. We were able to sort of take what Charlotte does well and come out on top.”
A large part of what allowed Georgetown to succeed on Sunday was its refusal, for the most part, to be goaded by Charlotte into reactionary penalties and cards. Neumann noted that staying in control was something that was stressed in pregame preparations.
“We knew we had to keep our composure, keep our heads, because there could be a few tussles,” he said.
In the end, the Hoyas kept both their cool and their one-goal lead, thanks to a big performance from the defense as well as sophomore goalkeeper Tomas Gomez. The Blue and Gray just managed to clear a ball off the goal line around the 60-minute mark, and Gomez came up with a miraculous full-stretch save six minutes later.
With 17 minutes to go, senior midfielder Andy Riemer, who put in a workmanlike 90-minute shift against the 49ers, nearly doubled his team’s advantage after a deft combination in the box with Allen, but the Virginian’s shot would instead carom just off the post. Allen’s earlier tally, however, proved to be enough for Georgetown to pick up the hard-earned victory.
“Obviously, every match is different, but we had a pretty good handle of what these guys were going to be like before we came in,” Rosenberry said. “I think we executed what we had in mind well, and we came out on the right end.”
For a team that had suffered a crushing, double-overtime defeat to Notre Dame in the Big East final exactly one week prior, Sunday’s win reinforced what for most of this season has been muscle memory: Other than their heartbreak against the Irish at PPL Park, the Hoyas have not lost or tied a game this season in which they have at one point held a lead.
Charlotte’s physicality also was a familiar sight, as the Big East is likewise regarded for such a style of play — albeit perhaps not to such an extent. More of the same, meanwhile, can likely be expected next Sunday as well, when Georgetown will take on conference foe Syracuse at North Kehoe in the third round.
But before moving on to the task of taking down the rival Orange, Wiese made sure to take a moment to reflect on his side’s achievement.
“We’re just excited,” he said. “Sweet 16. It sounds nice, doesn’t it?”