Emory men’s soccer achieved one of the greatest wins in program history, defeating the No. 1 University of Chicago Maroons 3-0 Oct. 7. The rollercoaster two-week stretch continued Oct. 13 and Oct. 15 at home with an emphatic 5-0 win over New York University (NYU) before a heartbreaking 1-0 overtime defeat against No. 3 Brandeis University (Mass.).
The Maroons’ astonishing 28-game undefeated streak, dating back to November 2015, is officially over. In its place, Emory extended its own win streak, which reached as high as eight before the Eagles’ narrow loss to the Brandeis Judges. Currently, Emory (10-3, 3-1) stands tied for No. 1 in the UAA conference with Chicago, Brandeis and Rochester (N.Y.).
While the rest of the country endured the depressing reality of the U.S. men’s national soccer team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the Emory men’s soccer team returned home from the game against the UChicago that same week with reason to celebrate.
“Going into the game, we felt really good,” junior forward and UAA Athlete of the Week Moustafa Khattab said. “We won six [games] in a row … To go there, win seven [games] straight and beat them at home when they haven’t lost [in a while] — everyone on the team was just super excited.”
When asked to describe the game in one word, Khattab said, “hype.”
Khattab jetted the Eagles to an early 1-0 advantage, striking the opening goal from 20 yards out. The ball caromed off the goalpost, rolling in during the 14th minute.
“We knew that [Chicago is] a very good team,” Khattab said. “They’re very organized … Scoring early was really key, and once we scored early, we just kept pressuring them.”
In the 29th minute, junior forward Tyler Walsh recorded the first goal of his college career from 10 feet out off an assist by junior midfielder Michael Stier, doubling the Eagles’ score.
“We got very fortunate early in the game,” Interim Head Coach Cory Greiner said. “We realized that [the Maroons] have some of the fastest players in the country up top and some of the most dangerous players. After a little bit of an initial flurry in the game, we got used to their speed and their pace … Guys were covering for each other, and we defended a little bit more as a team.”
The Maroons failed to make a comeback in the second half as the Eagles tallied yet another goal a mere three minutes into the second half courtesy of senior forward Christian Meyer. Chicago senior goalkeeper Hill Bonin deflected a shot off Emory senior forward Jason McCartney but fell short of blocking Meyer, who collected the rebound in stride. The Eagles finished with a 3-0 shutout, marking the program’s first ever win against a No. 1 opponent.
“[This game] consolidated what we, as a team, think and what we know we can accomplish,” Khattab said. “It was more of like saying to everyone, ‘Now we know that we can beat any team … and make the [NCAA] tournament and go far.’”
Much credit goes to Emory’s defense and freshman keeper Cole Gallagher for shutting out the competition and keeping clean sheets against New York and Chicago. The defensive unit limited the explosive Maroon attack to a season-low four shots on goal.
“Our guys are really excited coming out of the [Chicago] game with such a big result over one of the best teams in the country,” Greiner said. “It’s important to stick to our values and who we are and not try to get ahead of ourselves for the rest of the season, but I think our guys believe that they can compete and play with anybody.”
The Emory attack shifted into full gear Friday against NYU, with goals from McCartney (with two), sophomore defender Keegan McCombie, Stier and Meyer leading the way to a 5-0 demolition.
Two days after the NYU shutout, the Eagles met their match against the Brandeis Judges. The Eagles had several goal opportunities, including a disallowed offsides goal in the second half. Neither team made headway in either half, which led to a heated and physical overtime. Desperate to end the game victorious, the Eagles and Judges produced 19 and 20 shots, respectively, throughout the evenly-played match.
The game nearly ended in Emory’s favor during overtime when senior midfielder Adam Ferguson had an almost-goal that had his fellow teammates running from the bench onto the field with the thought of victory, only to discover that the ball had missed the right goal post by inches.
Brandeis delivered the fatal blow with an unforeseen header by junior midfielder Patrick Flahive minutes before the end of the second overtime half, wrapping up the weekend with a heartbreaking 1-0 loss for Emory.
The Eagles play the Oglethorpe University (Ga.) Stormy Petrels Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. on Salamone Field.