Soccer

The 2018 FIFA World Cup is set to take place this summer from June 14 to July 15 in Russia. Despite the United States men’s national soccer team’s (USMNT) failure to qualify, there are still plenty of highly anticipated matchups in the group stage and beyond. Here is a breakdown of all the groups to guide you through one of the most anticipated events in sports competition.

Group A: Egypt vs. Uruguay

Led by Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah who recently won the English Premier League Player of the Year title, Egypt will enter the competition for the first time in 28 years. Uruguay, a veteran team, qualified out of the brutal South American qualifying group, CONMEBOL. With two strong offensive teams, this matchup promises a high-scoring affair.

Players to Watch: Salah (Egypt), Luis Suarez (Uruguay), Edinson Cavani (Uruguay)

Salah tied the Premier League record with 31 goals in a season. As for Cavani and Suarez, the striker pair for Uruguay, they are both known for being prolific in front of the goal for both club and country — Suarez has scored 23 goals and six assists in the Spanish League for his club FC Barcelona, and Cavani has scored 25 for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in France this season.

Predicted Standings

  1. Uruguay
  2. Egypt
  3. Russia
  4. Saudi Arabia

Group B: Portugal vs. Spain

In one of the most anticipated matchups to kick off the group stage, this high-profile game will not disappoint. Arguably the best player on the planet, Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo will face off against many of his current Real Madrid teammates and the club’s rivals from Barcelona when the neighboring countries play. On paper, Spain has more talent with many of its players starting for top European teams such as Real Madrid and Barcelona, but Ronaldo always pulls through for his team.

Players to Watch: Ronaldo (Portugal), Alvaro Morata (Spain), Diego Costa (Spain)

Portugal will go as far as Ronaldo will take them. Two years ago, he led them to a European championship, so anything is possible. Apart from all the talent on Spain’s roster, the most intriguing storyline is who will lead the front line as the striker — Morata, who plays for Chelsea FC or Costa of Atletico Madrid. Despite Costa’s replacement by Morata on Chelsea and his playing time delay, Costa is currently in better shape, having scored six goals throughout all competitions in 2018 compared to Morata’s three goals.

Predicted Standings:

  1. Spain
  2. Portugal
  3. Iran
  4. Morocco

Group C: France vs. Denmark

France enters the tournament as a younger team, brimming with talent. Denmark, on the other hand, is a very consistent team, boasting a group of elite Premier League players.

Players to Watch: Christian Eriksen (Denmark), Paul Pogba (France), Kylian Mbappe (France)

Eriksen has been an unsung hero for Tottenham Hotspur F.C. for the past couple years, dominating the midfield. This World Cup could show the world what he is capable of as a facilitator in attack. Pogba, who plays as a midfielder for Manchester United F.C., has been hyped as a rising soccer star. For the past three seasons, he has accounted for at least 18 goals from midfield for Manchester United and Italy’s Juventus F.C. This is his chance to secure stardom status when the stakes are highest. Mbappe, at the ripe age of 19, has caught European soccer by storm with AS Monaco F.C. and Paris Saint-Germain F.C. (PSG), and will undoubtedly show off his incredible attacking prowess this summer.

Predicted Standings:

  1. France
  2. Peru
  3. Denmark
  4. Australia

Group D: Argentina vs. Croatia

Group D could be top to bottom the most impressive group, but this game stands out above the rest. It features two teams with a lot to prove when they face off. Argentina, the 2014 World Cup runner-up, is looking to make another trip to the finals after losing to Germany in 2014. Croatia has the talent to run deep in the tournament, but the team has struggled to reach their potential in recent international tournaments, including bowing out in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup.

Players to Watch: Lionel Messi (Argentina), Luka Modric (Croatia), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Iceland)

At age 30, this may be Messi’s last opportunity to win a World Cup and cement his legacy as one of the greatest players to ever touch a soccer ball. Modric, the fulcrum of the Croatian midfield, created six assists for Real Madrid this season and boasts a passing accuracy of nearly 90 percent. Sigurdsson operates in a similar role as Modric as Iceland looks to continue their form from their Cinderella run in the 2016 European Championships where they beat England to reach the quarterfinals.

Predicted Standings:

  1. Argentina
  2. Iceland
  3. Croatia
  4. Nigeria

Group E: Brazil vs. Switzerland

Brazil is looking to rebound from their humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup semifinals on home soil. But first they face a tough test from a balanced Switzerland squad.

Players to Watch: Neymar Jr. (Brazil), Granit Xhaka (Switzerland)

All eyes will be on Neymar after his controversial transfer last summer from Barcelona to PSG for a record transfer fee of more than $200 million. Neymar is currently injured, but he faces immense pressure to return to form. Xhaka is a versatile midfielder for Switzerland who has proven a key cog in the middle of the field for Arsenal F.C. His box-to-box ability will be vital for Switzerland’s success in the tournament.

Predicted Standings:

  1. Brazil
  2. Switzerland
  3. Costa Rica
  4. Serbia

Group F: Germany vs. Mexico

In a 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup Semi-Final rematch, Mexico will look to bounce back from last year’s 4-1 loss and try to defeat the top-ranked team in the world, Germany. The defending 2014 World Cup champions are in a great position to repeat their success but will face their first true test of the tournament against Mexico, the top team in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying group.  

Players to Watch: Timo Werner (Germany), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Germany), Manuel Neuer (Germany) Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (Mexico)

Germany has experienced and talented players in every position. The only real potential weakness is at the striker position, which Werner will most likely occupy. He is young and fairly unschooled, but has recently come into the spotlight. Neuer usually occupies the starting goalkeeper and, when healthy, is considered the top goalkeeper in the world. However, he has been injured for the majority of the season which has casted a dubious light on Germany’s campaign. Goalkeeper ter Stegen has had a standout year for his club Barcelona having only conceded 19 goals in 33 league games this season. Finally, Chicharito is the all time leading scorer for Mexico with 49 goals in 100 international appearances. He will need to provide offensive firepower when the team needs a goal in order to advance.  

Predicted Standings

  1. Germany
  2. Mexico
  3. Sweden
  4. South Korea

Group G: Belgium vs. England

Another highly anticipated opening matchup pits two teams which feature many players that compete against each other during the club season in England. England is bringing a younger squad than previous tournaments with a new manager, which will give a new look to their team. Belgium is looking to finally capitalize on their golden generation of players, who are all currently reaching their prime.

Players to Watch: Harry Kane (England), Eden Hazard (Belgium), Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)

Kane, the main attacking threat for the England squad, has been a goal-scoring machine the past couple of years for Tottenham Hotspur. Hazard and De Bruyne are the keys to Belgium’s success as they are the two biggest creators of offense for the team both through goalscoring and distributing.

Predicted Standings:

  1. Belgium
  2. England
  3. Panama
  4. Tunisia

Group H: Colombia vs. Poland

These two highly ranked teams full of clinical goal scorers face off in a matchup that will likely determine the winner of Group H.

Players to Watch: James Rodriguez (Colombia), Robert Lewandowski (Poland), Sadio Mane (Senegal)

James was the breakout star of the last World Cup, which helped him earn a transfer to Real Madrid that summer. His production on the field stalled last season, but he has enjoyed a resurgence at his current club, FC Bayern Munich. At Bayern Munich, Lewandowski has arguably been the best pure striker in soccer for the last couple of years. Poland will look to him to take them past the group stage. Mane, who plays for Liverpool, has been the main attacking force for an upstart Senegal squad that looks poised to upset major teams in this tournament.

Predicted Standings:

  1. Columbia
  2. Senegal
  3. Poland
  4. Japan

Atlanta United fans light up the Mercedez-Benz Stadium in support of the Five Stripes’ crusade against NYCFC on April 15. Annie Uichanco/Asst. Sports Editor

Eastern table leaders, No. 1 New York City FC (NYCFC) (5-2-0) and No. 2 Atlanta United FC (4-1-1), split a matchup of surprises and drama 2-2 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on April 15. Despite Atlanta’s disastrous season opener loss to the Houston Dynamo, both teams survived the weekend thriller to strengthen their ever-expanding undefeated streaks.

In Atlanta’s inaugural 2017 season, NYCFC defeated United 3-1 with a second-half flurry on May 7. The Five Stripes answered with their own redemptive 3-1 victory over New York four weeks later.

“The danger that [New York] has and just how well organized they are from the back four, from them having a national team goalie — it felt like a national team game,” Atlanta left back Greg Garza said.

Indeed, both teams’ high energy became clear within the first 13 minutes of play. Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan made two critical saves in the first half, paving the way for the team’s lead-defining goal from Garza off an assist from midfielder Miguel Almiron in the 29th minute.

NYCFC’s tenacious efforts came to fruition when forward David Villa, who sat out the last three games due to injury, made an unexpected appearance in the 35th minute to sub in for injured attacking midfielder Ismael Tajouri. After only three minutes on the pitch and a foul off Atlanta team captain and defender Michael Parkhurst, Villa evened the score 1-1 with a well-placed penalty kick in the bottom left corner.

“The disappointing thing for us is … we ushered [Villa] across the top of box and away from goal, and we did the hard work there,” Guzan said. “Then with one pass, we never really got pressure to the ball. … With one touch and one swing of the leg, he is punishing us.”

The drama unfolded later on in the first half when Atlanta center midfielder Darlington Nagbe netted a through ball from a brilliant offensive play between forward Josef Martinez and midfielder Julian Gressel. Gressel found Nagbe waiting just outside the top of the box in the 41st minute.

But the goal was not in the cards for United. After a video review, the verdict was an offsides call on Martinez, thus eliminating Atlanta’s chance of a smooth victory.

“I think it was a goal,” Atlanta Head Coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said of the reversed call.

Well into the second half, midfielder Chris McCann pushed Atlanta ahead with a header goal assisted by Almiron, who chipped behind to McCann in the 56th minute.

“Miguel is a clever player sometimes,” McCann said. “He picked out a beautiful pass. I tried to check my run and he picked me out, and luckily enough [the ball] went in.”

In the 70th minute, Atlanta pulled their trump card: attacking midfielder Ezequiel Barco. The much-anticipated “Argentine wonderkid” made his MLS debut that night to sub in for Kevin Kratz, after months of training alongside the team and signing the most expensive deal in MLS history.

“[Barco] was dynamic,” Martino said. “[But] I thought he was missing a bit in his precision.”

In fact, the 19-year-old’s star ability wasn’t enough to push Atlanta over the top as NYCFC’s Alexander Ring scored the equalizer goal — his first in the MLS — in the 73rd minute. A drop pass from Villa at the top of the box set up a clear shot for Ring’s execution, sending the ball into the net off the Atlanta crossbar.

“I’m happy to get the debut,” Barco said. “But I’m sad with the result.”

The 2-2 result squashed any hopes Atlanta fans had of squeezing into the No. 2 spot on the MLS leaderboard, but Martino saw it as a stepping stone for more difficult matches ahead.

“We can use everything from tonight,” Martino said. “It’s possible that this was the best game we have played since I’ve been here.”

NYCFC may not have maintained their beloved undefeated streak if not for the rescue goals of Villa and Ring, as Atlanta seemed to hold the upper hand in both the offense and the defense.

“We are a team that is intense for 90 minutes,” Martino said. “We are creating a lot of scoring chances. Today, you have the left back and the left center back scoring goals. So I think we are still doing things well.”

Atlanta aims to extend their undefeated streak on the road against the LA Galaxy (3-1-2) on April 21, their second meeting after a decisive 4-0 Atlanta victory at home last season on Sept. 20, 2017.

Kevin Kilgour (16Ox, 18B) contributed reporting.

The Eagles watch on as freshman goalkeeper Cole Gallagher competes in penalty kicks. Chicago’s perfect performance from the PK spot earned them a 5-3 victory and a trip to the NCAA DIII Tournament Semifinals. Courtesy of Michael Cetta.

A total of 110 minutes of regulation play were not enough to determine a victor in this season’s second battle between the unranked Emory Eagles and the No. 11 University of Chicago Maroons Nov. 18. A 1-1 draw at the close of the second overtime period forced these all-too familiar rivals into a penalty shootout with a spot in the NCAA Division III Tournament semifinals on the line. Chicago proved the beneficiary, edging out a narrow 5-3 win at Chicago’s Stagg Field.

With the win, Chicago advances to the tournament’s semifinals for the second time in program history, their only other appearance in 1996 when the Maroons fell 3-2 to Kenyon College (Ohio). They will meet with hometown rival No. 5 North Park University (Il.) in Greensboro, N.C. This will be yet another rematch for Chicago, who dropped a 1-0 home match to visiting North Park Oct. 18. North Park has not lost since Sept. 4.

The quarterfinal pairing with Chicago was nothing short of poetic, as the Maroons have been the catalyst to the Eagles’ rise and final fall this season. In an Oct. 7 UAA conference game, Emory crushed then-No. 1 Chicago to the tune of a 3-0 win on the Maroons’ home pitch. This was Emory’s first ever win against a No. 1-ranked opponent and legitimized Emory’s place among this season’s soccer elite.

“[Chicago has] a great system and each player knows their role very well,” senior midfielder Christian Meyer said. “Defensively, they are really organized. They aren’t going to foul you for a [penalty kick] or give you any dangerous opportunities. You have to create whatever you are getting.”

Junior midfielder Moustafa Khattab fights for a ball. Courtesy of Michael Cetta.

Though Chicago returned the favor in penalty kicks Nov. 18, Emory’s quarterfinal loss is, at worst, bittersweet. The defeat caps what has arguably been Emory’s best season in program history. Along with a 15-5-2 season record, the Eagles secured program firsts in the form of a win over a No. 1-ranked opponent and a birth into the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament.

“For the younger guys it has instilled in them that a national championship is a reachable thing,” Meyer said. “It’s not just something you talk about. It’s something that we are definitely close to achieving.”

Emory’s tournament run began Nov. 11 in Lynchburg, Va. Wins over unranked Dickinson College (Pa.) and No. 14 Lynchburg College (Va.) in the first two rounds propelled Emory into the tournament’s Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008 and tied for the furthest tournament run in program history.

This Eagles squad tore through the Sweet 16 barrier Nov. 17 with a 2-1 victory over No. 18 University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas). First half goals from senior forward Michael Carragher and Meyer proved just enough to secure a matchup with Chicago in the quarterfinals.

Emory and Chicago had met on Stagg Field a little more than a month prior, and the Eagles ran away with a big win. This match was fated to be a much tighter contest.

Senior center midfielder Adam Ferguson carries the ball. Courtesy of Michael Cetta.

“It’s tough to beat any team two times in one year, especially one of the best teams in the country,” Meyer said. “We know each other very well because we played this year, we play the same teams in the conference, and we have a lot of information and scouting on each other.”

Chicago pulled the first punch early, striking Emory in the 10th minute off a header from junior forward Max Lopez.

Though Emory conceded the early goal, the team continued to apply pressure on the Maroons.

“It’s 20 degrees … we are down 1-0 after 5 minutes. It would have been really easy for us to just give up,” Meyer said. “That’s indicative of the character and the strength of the people on our team.”

The score held 1-0 into halftime, but Emory broke through the Chicago defense just three minutes into the second half. A corner kick from senior center midfielder Adam Ferguson found the head of Carragher, who finished to tie the game at one goal apiece.

“[Carragher] made a front post run. … [Chicago was] zonally marking, and he just beat whoever it was right there to the ball and hit it near post, kind of in the upright corner,” Meyer said.

Through the remainder of the second half and the two 10-minute overtime periods, neither team could find the back of the net. In the 20 minutes of overtime, the two sides allowed only two shots, both for Chicago. In total, Chicago outshot Emory 13-5. Emory freshman goalkeeper Cole Gallagher came up big time and time again, with six saves on the day. Chicago freshman goalkeeper Aaron Katsimpalis tallied two saves.

Junior defender Aidan Datene prepares a long ball. Courtesy of Michael Cetta.

At the conclusion of double overtime, the teams prepared for penalty kicks. Chicago shot first, with senior midfielder Andre Abedian connecting on the first shot to give the Maroons a 1-0 lead. Senior forward Jason McCartney responded in kind to tie the score. In the second round, Lopez delivered Chicago a 2-1 lead, which held after a save from Katsimpalis against Emory junior midfielder Moustafa Khattab. After another Chicago goal, Carragher stepped to the penalty spot and scored to keep the Eagles within reach, 3-2. But Chicago just wouldn’t miss, scoring yet again in the fourth round.

Down 4-2, junior defender Tyler Santee approached the penalty spot with the game hanging in the balance. A blast to the upper right 90 kept Emory alive, the score now 4-3 in favor of Chicago. Sophomore forward Dayo Adeosun took the fifth and final shot for Chicago. Just a goal away from victory, Adeosun snuck a shot past Gallagher, delivering the Maroons a 5-3 victory with a perfect five-for-five performance in penalty kicks.

“For the older guys ending on this note, definitely we would prefer to be still playing in greensboro this weekend for the final four, but I think, going out, making it to the elite eight, finally we fulfilled the potential that we knew the program and our class and the classes below us has,” Meyer said. “It’s kind of bittersweet, but I think we will look back on it over the next few months, the next few years, and be proud of what we accomplished.”

The win improved Chicago’s season record to 19-2-1. They will face North Park in the semifinals Dec. 1. On the opposite side of the bracket, yet another UAA foe, No. 19 Brandeis University (Mass.), will battle No. 9 Messiah College (Pa.) the same day. The winners will compete Dec. 2 in the NCAA DIII Tournament Final.

Senior forward Jason McCartney fends off a defender in the Eagles’ second round victory over Lynchburg College (Va.) Nov. 12. Courtesy of Michael Cetta.

The Emory men’s soccer team extended their season with a playoff push in the NCAA Tournament after elimination-game wins in the first and second rounds of the NCAA Division III Tournament. The Eagles bested Dickinson College (Pa.) 3-1 in the opening round Nov. 11, before defeating Lynchburg College (Va.) 1-0 in the second round Nov. 12.

With the two victories, the Eagles advance to the Round of 16, tying with the best postseason performance in Emory history.

In their first round matchup against the Dickinson Red Devils, Emory started the game with an offensive flurry, scoring three goals in the first 34 minutes of play.

Junior midfielder Moustafa Khattab provided Emory’s first real chance in the ninth minute. Standing outside the box, Khattab received the ball and cut right, shooting a low drive towards the bottom left corner but the scoring attempt was denied by Red Devil sophomore goalkeeper Frederick Meagher.

Seven minutes later the Eagles broke through with senior midfielder Jason McCartney’s first tally of the night. With his back facing the goal, McCartney received a cross from junior defender Aidan Datene from the left flank. McCartney, with little room to work, spun left to fool the defender and hit a low left-footed shot that nailed the right post and ricocheted back into the goal.

In the 22nd minute, after a poor kick from Meagher, senior forward Christian Meyer took possession and dribbled past multiple Dickinson defenders. Moving left outside the box, Meyer rocketed a perfect left-footed shot that went right-upper 90 and left Meagher frozen between the posts.

“On my goal, I just saw some space and took it,” Meyer said. “No one on Dickinson stepped to me until I was at the top of the box, and I ended up hitting a pretty good shot.”

The early scoring didn’t end there for the Eagles. In the 33rd minute, sophomore midfielder Jun Tsuru ripped a long-range attempt that was deflected by a Red Devil defender. However, the deflection fell to McCartney who, after the original offside ruling was overturned by the head referee, notched his second goal of the night.

Freshman forward Nate Sampson aims a volley. Courtesy of Michael Cetta.

Losing 3-0 at halftime, the Red Devils finally struck with a 68th minute goal by sophomore midfielder Brendan McGovern.

But the Eagles’ defense dominated most of the second half, highlighted by freshman goalkeeper Cole Gallagher and sophomore midfielder William Jones.

In the 48th minute, Red Devil senior forward Will Bracken seemed to have an easy goal-scoring opportunity with no defenders around him, but Gallagher blocked his opportunity with an amazing diving save to his right.

The Red Devils had another opportunity in the 84th minute. Red Devil freshman forward Mohamed Kourouma directed a header that seemed destined for the back net. But Jones, standing back post, turned the ball away with his left foot before crashing into the net.

With the final whistle, the Eagles claimed a 3-1 victory, setting up a second round matchup against the No. 15 Lynchburg Hornets (18-2-2).

Sporting a 16-match unbeaten streak, the Lynchburg Hornets hoped to utilize their home-field advantage and continue their winning stretch.

In the first half, the Hornets looked prime to score with four shots on frame, but Gallagher provided multiple saves to prevent any damage.

Emory, on the other hand, lacked shots on target in the first half. They only had one attempt on target by junior midfielder Evan Floersch, whose headed effort was saved by Lynchburg junior goalkeeper Dylan McLaurin. Overall, Emory had only 10 shots to Lynchburg’s 20.

Nonetheless, the stalemate held until the 72nd minute when Khattab provided the spark that ignited Emory’s run to the Round of 16. His shot from the corner of the 18-yard box went far post and into the net, handing Emory the 1-0 lead and their ticket to the Sweet 16.

“Khattab’s goal was amazing,” junior defender Tyler Santee said. “I didn’t have a good angle on it, but I knew before it hit the back of the net that it was in.”  

With Emory leading 1-0, Khattab had another chance in the 75th minute with a free kick from 30 yards out, but McLaurin’s acrobatic save prevented an additional goal.

For the Eagles, one goal was enough. The defense recorded its sixth shutout of the season and Gallagher saved four shots, earning his sixth clean sheet. This marked only the second time this season that Lynchburg failed to score a goal, the only other occasion coming in a 0-0 draw against Virginia Wesleyan University Oct. 24.

“Lynchburg was a very tough opponent, which was to be expected, but we played our game,” Santee said. “We weathered the storm defensively and took advantage of our opportunities on the attacking end. The last 20 or so minutes were about as hectic as we’ve played all year, but we kept the ball out of our own net and we are on our way to making history. I think that is the most exciting part of this whole experience, knowing that we have the opportunity to put our names in the record books and make a statement that our program is not to be overlooked.”

Despite making Emory history, the Eagles are not ready to settle.

“Making the final 16 is a great feeling, and we know we’ve now equaled the best season in Emory history,” Meyer said. “We’re not done yet, however, and are already looking forward to next weekend and Mary-Hardin Baylor, our next opponent.”

After their historic weekend, the Eagles advance to play the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) (19-2-1) Nov. 17 in Chicago with a trip to the quarterfinals on the line.

Sophomore midfielder Jun Tsuru dribbles around a pressing Rochester defender. Alec Giufurta/Contributing

The Emory men’s soccer team defeated the University of Rochester (N.Y.) in a 3-2 overtime victory on Senior Day Nov. 4.

The outcome of the match had serious ramifications: If the Eagles won, they would most likely qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014. If they lost, their season was likely at its end.

The win secured the Eagles a spot in the 2017 NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championship. The NCAA announced Nov. 6 that Emory would be one of a field of 62 college teams competing for the title. This marks the Eagles’ 15th NCAA tournament appearance.

“The team is very excited to be in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014, and all of us seniors are happy to be able to keep our careers going for at least one more game,” senior forward Christian Meyer said.

The chances of qualifying didn’t always look great for the Eagles. For much of the game, the Eagles played catch up against the Yellowjackets.

The Yellowjackets struck first early at the 8:44 mark. Following a Rochester corner kick, the ball was cleared, but landed at the foot of Yellowjacket defender Nik Angyal. His shot from outside the box was blocked by Emory freshman keeper Cole Gallagher but found Rochester midfielder Bryce Ikeda, who knocked in the easy rebound.

Trailing 1-0, the Eagles had chances to equalize in the 14th minute. However, senior forward Michael Carragher’s and Meyer’s shots were saved by Rochester keeper Redd Brown.

Senior center back Cody Gardiner shields the ball from a defender. Alec Giufurta/Contributing

The Yellowjackets held a 1-0 until the 68th minute when junior midfielder Moustafa Khattab coolly dribbled around the keeper to score the equalizer. The goal was assisted by a precise through ball by senior forward Jason McCartney that left Khattab one on one with the keeper.

But less than one minute later the Yellowjackets found the net again, taking a 2-1 advantage. Angyal received the ball on the right flank, cut left, ripped a left-footed shot from outside the box and found the back of the net.  

With time winding down and the Eagles’ hopes of qualifying for the tournament dwindling, junior defender Tyler Santee scored with less than nine minutes left in regulation. Santee’s first headed attempt was put on frame but deflected by Brown. The rebound, however, bounced right back to Santee, who delivered the equalizer.

At 2-2, the Eagles and Yellowjackets headed to overtime with the season on the line.

In the 94th minute, Meyer provided the goal that sent the Eagles into the NCAA Tournament on the special Senior Day.

Waiting outside the box, Meyer received a pass from Santee, who stole the ball after a poor Yellowjacket clearance attempt. After making a move into the box, Meyer ripped a screamer that flew into the top right corner of the net and provided Emory with the game-winning goal.

“It was a fantastic feeling to see the ball hit the back of the net, as it was our first victory in overtime this year even though it was our fifth overtime game,” said Meyer. “More importantly, the win gave us 12 on the year and a third-place conference finish and set us up very well heading into the NCAA tournament selection show Monday afternoon.”

With a spot in the tournament officially obtained, the Eagles (12-5-1) will play Dickinson College (Pa.) (11-6-3) Nov. 11, in Lynchburg, Va.

“I think that our team as a whole has grown a lot throughout the season, and we know that every game from here on out is do or die,” Santee said. “The further we go, the tougher it will get, but we’ve been training for this all year, and we are ready for the challenge. Of course Dickinson will be a tough opponent, seeing as they’ve made it to the tournament, so we will really have to be at our best on Saturday.”

Emory women’s soccer wrapped up their regular season with an unfortunate 1-0 loss to the Piedmont College (Ga.) Lions Nov. 2, and a 2-0 shutout over the University of Rochester (N.Y.) Yellowjackets Nov. 4, finishing strong for their season finale.

With this final victory, the team finished 2-4-1 in the University Athletic Association (UAA) and 10-7-1 overall, marking the Eagles’ first 10-win season since 2014.

“I think we improved both individually and collectively as a team,” Head Coach Sue Patberg said. “The tough part was that we had to continue to be resilient throughout the season. After we had the rough weekend against [Case Western Reserve University (Ohio)] and [Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.)], I think a lot of players were trying to not throw in the towel but were pretty down. We had to get it together over the course of that week and change our mindset heading into the Piedmont game.”

Against Piedmont, Emory carried the upper hand for most of the game, but in the final two minutes the Lions’ only shot on goal made it past the Eagles’ defensive unit, putting Piedmont ahead for a 1-0 win.

“The outcome of the game definitely was not representative of how the game went which is the tough part about soccer,” Patberg said. “Losing to them was very hard to take because we just controlled the game, but we played significantly better soccer than we had the weekend before. There were a lot of positives coming out of that game that were not reflected in the score.”

Multiple muffed opportunities ultimately cost Emory the match. Senior midfielder Melissa Ardizzone fired a shot just shy of the Lions’ left post 36 minutes into the first half. Ardizzone led both teams with a total of three shots in the game.

Early in the second half, sophomore defender Paige Santee almost scored off a header, but Piedmont freshman goalie Miranda McNalley blocked the Eagles’ threat.

None of Emory’s 12 shots made it past the Piedmont posts, leaving the score tied deep into the second half. However, in the 88th minute, Piedmont senior midfielder Savannah Castles scored the game-winning goal. After a boot upfield from Emory sophomore goalie Haley Pratt, Piedmont sophomore forward Anslyn Stamps got a foot on the ball, touching it back upfield. Castles won the loose ball over Emory junior defender Danielle Darius, shooting it successfully into the far corner of the Eagles’ net from 20 yards out.

“It was kind of a slap in the face because we were at their goal the whole game, and then one mistake led to another, and then it was a quick goal,” Ardizzone said. “Afterward, at least for me, I was like ‘Come on guys. We still have two minutes. Let’s try to get one.’ We went down at them a few more times but we just couldn’t get it.”

Rounding out the end of the impressive season, the Eagles hosted their last conference match against the Rochester Yellowjackets. Before the match, Emory honored the team’s six seniors — Ardizzone, Melinda Altamore, Kaitlyn Dorka, Lizzie Garrett-Currie, Anna Gurney and Bahar Ulusan — with an on-field ceremony. An appropriate celebration of  the seniors’ last regular season as Emory Eagles, the game marked their second win of the UAA conference and eighth and final shutout of the season.

“I think everyone just put their heart and soul into it,” Ardizzone said. “For the seniors, I think we all just wanted to go out with a definitive win because we know we’re good enough. It didn’t really show the whole season, so we were like ‘we just gotta finish the season how we wished we would’ve finished every game.’”

Quick to bounce back from Thursday’s defeat, the Eagles struck hard in the first 20 minutes of the first half when freshman midfielder Samantha Hilsee scored the go-ahead goal. Hilsee headed in the ball home off a corner kick by junior forward Abbe McCarter. The goal marked McCarter’s ninth assist this season, Emory’s highest number of assists in a single season since 2012.

Six minutes before the game’s end, junior midfielder Madison Phaneuf contributed to Emory’s lead with another header goal. Freshman forward Lily Dresner took a free kick, but the ball met Rochester freshman keeper Emma Campbell’s gloves. Collecting the rebound, Phaneuf tore through the ball in the front of the keeper, firing home in the back of the Yellowjackets’ net.

After last attempts from both teams to score with only seconds remaining on the clock, the Eagles’ and Yellowjackets’ 2017 campaigns came to an end.

Ardizzone reflected back on her years as an Emory Eagle — all the way back to her first year on the team.

“I think this year was most reflective of my freshman year,” Ardizzone said. “We had the best chemistry, the best leadership and, honestly, it was fun this year playing … I really think [next year’s team is] going to be successful.”

The Eagles will not advance to the NCAA tournament this season. The team’s last appearance came in 2014, when they were eliminated in the round of 64.

For their final weekend of away conference games, the Emory women’s soccer team brought home two road losses. Coming off a three-game undefeated streak, the Eagles first fell short of victory against No. 3 Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) (Pa.) in a close 2-1 match Oct. 27. Two days later, No. 8 Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) (Ohio) pounded the Eagles in an overwhelming 5-2 match.

In the 2016 NCAA conference, the CMU Tartans defeated the Eagles in a devastating 2-1 overtime loss. This year, with a warrant for redemption, the Eagles entered the CMU game hopeful and vindictive.

Action from the two teams didn’t pick up until the second half, when the Tartans scored two goals within 47 seconds of each other in the 60th minute. The first was a loose-ball header by CMU senior midfielder Morgan Kontor. Less than one minute later, CMU junior defender Alex Moy struck the back of the Eagles’ net off a curling corner kick aimed at the near post.

In the 81st minute, Emory freshman defender Lily Dresner responded with a shot into the low left of the CMU wall from 11 yards out. Capitalizing on an indirect free kick, sophomore forward Caroline Kolski dribbled around the top of the box and passed back to Dresner who finished the play.

Unfortunately, the Eagles could not cut through the Tartans’ defense and failed to score before the clock ran out, handing over another 2-1 win to CMU, who have yet to lose on home turf this season. The results reflected the overall offensive effort, as the Tartans outshot the Eagles 16-6.

“When the game went down 2-1, the game for us changed dramatically,” Head Coach Sue Patberg said. “With about 20 minutes left in the game, our whole mentality changed. Our possession in the final third, our opportunities in the final third, the corner kicks that we got … the throw-ins in the final third … it was significantly different. Had we played the entire game like we played the last 20 minutes against Carnegie Mellon, it probably would’ve been a very different result.”

Wrapping up the weekend, the Eagles battled the CWRU Spartans Oct. 29. Defeating Emory in a 5-2 match, CWRU celebrated its first NCAA conference win and first-ever victory against Emory in 31 all-time meetings.

The Eagles and Spartans went back and forth, reaching a 2-2 deadlock at the end of the first half. Junior midfielder Madison Phaneuf almost put Emory in the lead with a penalty kick, but failed to play it past the keeper. The Spartans stole the chance, running the ball down the field and marking a goal by CWRU senior midfielder Elle Zadina in the eighth minute.

Twenty-nine seconds later, CWRU sophomore goalie Lauren Unterborn deflected an Eagle cross, but Emory freshman midfielder Samantha Hilsee recovered possession. Hilsee then fired two consecutive shots, the first finding the crossbar and the second finding the back of the net.

CWRU junior forward Melanie Kukura threw the scoreboard off balance, shooting a loose ball off another rebound into the middle of the Eagles’ net. Emory responded six minutes later when junior forward Abbe McCarter made a 20-yard shot from the top of the box.

The Spartans broke away in the second half, pushing them to victory with three more goals in the final 17 minutes of play. Determined to fight until the very end, the Eagles upped the physicality, amassing two yellow cards throughout the second half. To Emory’s chagrin, their efforts went unrewarded, and the Eagles’ road weekend ended with a devastating 5-2 loss. Unlike the CMU game, however, Emory’s total shots did not echo the outcome; the Eagles more than doubled the Spartans’ shots, 25-12.

After the costly weekend, the Eagles remain at No. 6 in the University Athletic Association (UAA) conference with a 1-4-1 ledger (9-6-1 overall). To top it off, the UAA named Emory’s junior goalkeeper Dani Staffin the defender of the week for the week of Oct. 23. This achievement followed her stellar performance during the 2-0 victory against Roanoke College (Va.), which marked her fourth clean sheet of the season.

Staffin attributed a strong mental focus as a key factor in successfully guarding her post.

“As a goalie, the mentality is probably the biggest part of my game,” Staffin said. “I’m not the biggest player. I’m not the strongest player, but I’m known for being a mental player. That’s definitely something that I look … to continuously improve.”

Emory hosts the women’s soccer senior night and the Eagles’ last game of the season against No. 7 University of Rochester (N.Y.) Nov. 4 at 1:30 p.m.

“We know a lot about [Rochester],” Staffin said. “We played them last year. We definitely have a bone to pick with them because we tied. It was unfortunate, and we definitely think we were the better team and so we just need to show everybody that this year.”

The Emory men’s soccer team must be seeing ghosts this Halloween. The Eagles traveled north and played their final two road games only to wind up with a 2-2 draw against Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) (Pa.)  Friday, Oct. 27, before losing an emotional 3-2 game against Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) (Ohio) in double overtime Oct. 29.

The weekend’s results leave the Eagles in fourth place in the UAA at 3-2-1 in conference play (11-5-1 overall) with only one game remaining. They will likely need to pull out a win Nov. 4 against No. 2 University of Rochester (N.Y.) Yellowjackets (4-1-1 in conference, 11-2-3 overall) to make the NCAA tournament.

The Eagles’ weekend got off to a rocky start after allowing two quick goals to the CMU Tartans in the 16th and 18th minutes. However, Head Coach Cory Greiner’s calm halftime speech and tactical adjustments got Emory right back into the game, according to junior defender Aidan Datene.

To start the second half, the Eagles changed their formation from their standard 4-1-4-1 to a 3-5-2 to help generate some offense and pressure the Tartans. The amped-up pressure caught CMU off guard, and Emory senior forward Christian Meyer took advantage. He sent a cross into the penalty box, where junior midfielder Moustafa Khattab hit a one-timer to the lower right corner for his fifth goal of the season and put Emory on the board in the 48th minute.

In the 56th minute, Datene got a head on senior midfielder Adam Ferguson’s far post corner kick to tie the game with his third goal of the season.

“We don’t have too many set plays on corner kicks,” Datene said. “You just have to beat your man. So I put myself back post and … the ball looked like it was going short post but came through clean. I got a clean head on it; it ricocheted off one of their guys and rolled in. It was an incredible feeling.”

The game settled down from that point. CMU’s defense tightened, and the Eagles misfired on their final three shots of the game, including two corner-kick opportunities in the second overtime.

Nevertheless, the Eagles left Pittsburgh proud.

“Carnegie is always a tough opponent,” Datene said. “It was really good to see how the team came together to pull out that result on the road.

Against CWRU, Emory again found itself trailing early after surrendering an 18th-minute goal to CMRU junior midfielder Paul Darmstadter. The CWRU midfielder was able to gain positioning and headed the ball into the net off of freshman midfielder Connor Weber’s corner kick. This game, however, was much more of a back-and-forth affair. Emory junior defender Tyler Santee responded with a 15-yard goal in the 34th minute to knot the game up at 1-1.

The score remained even until the 54th minute when Emory freshman goalkeeper Cole Gallagher mishandled what appeared to be a routine save, allowing CWRU sophomore midfielder Zachary Senft to tap in an easy goal for a 2-1 lead.

Emory responded once more in the 77th minute when Khattab sent a 30-yard rocket to the upper right corner for the 2-2 equalizer.

Like the game against Carnegie Mellon, this one wasn’t decided in regulation but in double overtime, where Emory came up just short. Weber sent a corner kick over the outstretched arm of Gallagher and found the head of CWRU senior forward Michael Balog for the golden goal.

“Today was really unlucky,” Datene said. “It was our third double overtime loss of the season, which is really annoying. It puts us into a do or die situation where we need to win this weekend to make the [NCAA DIII] Tournament.”

Last year, Emory also closed out the season against Rochester with a birth in the NCAA DIII  Tournament on the line. The Eagles lost 1-0. However, Datene believes that this year’s rematch will end with a different result.

“Most of the guys know the feeling of what we are about to go through, so they should be ready,” Datene said. “We have seven or eight seniors starting which I think will help us this year. We only had one senior starting last year, so we know the importance [of this game]. … We aren’t going to let this opportunity pass again.”

The Eagles’ senior day matchup against the University of Rochester will take place Nov. 4 at 11 a.m. on the WoodPEC Soccer Field.

Atlanta United FC ended its inaugural season Oct. 26 with a 3-1 loss on penalties to Columbus Crew SC in the knockout round of the Audi 2017 Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup. Atlanta’s foundational season far exceeded their fellow expansion team Minnesota United FC, who finished third to last in the MLS Western Conference. Columbus, though currently in the conference semifinals, faces a blurry future as rumors swirl of a move to Austin.

The game at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium ended 0-0 after extra time. However, with 41 total shots and 13 total shots on target, the game entertained throughout.

Both teams’ goalkeepers stood firm, as Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan made four saves to Crew keeper Zack Steffen’s eight. Following the second overtime, defender Leandro Pirez and midfielders Julian Gressel and Jeff Larentowicz failed to convert penalties for Atlanta, ending the team’s strong first season with a loss that can at best be described as painful.

Atlanta Head Coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino led the team to a No. 4 finish in the Eastern Conference. The team set a new MLS single-game attendance record of 70,425 against Orlando City SC Sept.16 and a season attendance record of 48,200 along the way.

Atlanta’s inaugural season was the third strongest of an expansion team in MLS history, after the 1998 Chicago Fire, who won the MLS Cup that year, and the 2009 Seattle Sounders FC, who made it to the semi-finals. Atlanta’s success on the field created high expectations for its fans, who exceeded the attendance record set by the Seattle Sounders in 2015.

Strong fan support and good management off the field have set Atlanta United on a different trajectory than the Crew, who face possible relocation to Austin, Texas, before the 2019 season. Columbus’ Mapfre Stadium was the first soccer-specific stadium in the United States, but has fallen behind newer stadiums in capacity and amenities — the Mapfre Stadium offers 19,968 seats to Atlanta’s 71,000.

Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank is responsible for much of the team’s early success. Blank, who also owns the Atlanta Falcons, has invested millions of dollars in community development in the quickly gentrifying Atlanta Westside near the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Blank’s approach contrasts that of Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt. Precourt recently disputed claims made by local business leaders that they offered to buy half the club to keep it in Columbus. The Crew had the third worst attendance in the league at a season average of 15,429.

Meanwhile, Atlanta United was built for long-term success. Blank brought in Darren Eales, the former Director of Football Administration for Tottenham Hotspur FC, as president. Former U.S. national team captain Carlos Bocanegra came in as technical director, helping to plan and put together the United roster from scratch. Elite coach Martino was hired to coach a young team to play fast, exciting soccer. Blank invested further in United’s academy and the future of soccer in Atlanta with a $60 million training facility in Marietta, Ga.

Martino and Bocanegra face tough decisions ahead of next season, with young players like Josef Martinez tempting other clubs and an opportunity to offload underperforming high-earners like Kenwyne Jones.

Columbus leads New York City FC 4-1 on aggregate following the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The second leg of the semifinals will take place in New York Nov. 5.