Soccer

The Emory women’s soccer team kicked off a weekend of home games against No. 13 Christopher Newport University (CNU) (Va.) Sept. 15, before closing the weekend against Birmingham-Southern College (BSC) (Ala.) Sept. 17. On Sept. 15, the Eagles battled it out against CNU, but lost 2-1 during overtime. Two days later, they redeemed themselves with a 5-0 win against BSC, bringing their season record to 4-2-0.

The Eagles and the CNU Captains met on the WoodPEC soccer field on a hazy Friday evening. Both teams put up a commendable fight for much of the first half, but CNU took the lead when sophomore defender Danielle Pratt scored the first goal after 40 minutes.

“It was a great battle in the first half,” Head Coach Sue Patberg said. “I thought there were times when they had a little bit more momentum, a little bit more possession of the game, a little bit more dangerous opportunities.”

The Eagles picked up momentum in the second half when Emory sophomore forward Caroline Kolski put the ball in the bottom left of the Captains’ net from 20 yards out in the 60th minute, marking her first goal of the season.

“We got a better match-up in the midfield and then we started really just winning 50-50 balls and pushing the ball forward and that was big difference-maker for us, just competing more, being more physical, being first to the ball,” Patberg said.

The game went into overtime, as neither team gained the upper hand. Finally, with 98 minutes on the clock, CNU freshman forward Carson Pokorny got a through ball from 15 yards out past sophomore goalie Haley Pratt, giving CNU the 2-1 road win. The loss set the Eagles back to a 3-2-0 ledger.

“It was extremely disappointing,” Patberg said. “We got scored on two of our own mistakes. We made mistakes. [CNU] didn’t create those opportunities.”

On the same field Sunday afternoon, the Eagles soared and achieved a 5-0 victory over the Birmingham-Southern Panthers. In the first 39 seconds, Emory set the tone with a header put on goal by freshman midfielder Samantha Hilsee. Throughout the match, Emory delivered five successful shots on goal by Hilsee, sophomore forward Shivani Beall, senior midfielder Melinda Altamore, junior defender/forward Danielle Darius and junior forward Abbe McCarter.

“Our practices are getting more intense, getting ready for [University Athletic Association conference games] and whatnot, but I definitely think [the competition is] prepping us for what’s coming,” Darius said. “All the rough games we’ve had — Johns Hopkins, Christopher Newport — were mistakes that we made, and we’re learning from it, so by the time we get to UAAs I think we’re going to be great.”

Emory’s next match will be against Sewanee (Tenn.) Sept. 20, at 6 p.m.

The Emory men’s soccer team had hoped to maintain its undefeated streak and push its record to 4-0 but fell in both away games at the Washington and Lee Invitational in Lexington, Va. The Eagles lost to Washington and Lee University (Va.) 1-0 Sept. 9, before they suffered a second defeat against Randolph College (Va.) 1-0 in overtime a day later.

The Washington and Lee Generals struck first Saturday with an 11th minute goal after junior midfielder Dylan Ritch’s pass into the center of the box found fellow midfielder senior Andrew Kim, who slotted the shot in the lower corner. In the end, that goal proved to be the difference.

The majority of the match was dominated by defense. The Generals managed 11 total shots, but only three of those were on target. Likewise, the Eagles had seven total shots with three shots on target from seniors Jason McCartney, Cody Gardiner, and Michael Carragher.

“We hit the post twice, but we can do a better job penetrating in the final third and keeping our shape,” said Gardiner, senior center back and captain. “They were athletic and well organized so they were tough to break down.”

The best chance for the Eagles to equalize occurred in the second half. With 31 minutes remaining, junior midfielder Moustafa Khattab whipped a corner kick into the box.

The cross was met by the head of senior forward Jason McCartney, whose on-target attempt hit post, and was ultimately cleared for another corner.

Following a trio of Emory corner kicks, the Eagles had another chance to equalize only minutes later. However, the shot by Gardiner met the gloves of Washington and Lee senior goalkeeper Gillen Beck, who stopped three shots during the game.

One day later, the Eagles were back on the pitch for their second match of the Invitational to face Randolph College.

Much of the match remained a stalemate, with both teams tied 0-0 through 90 minutes. However, the Randolph Wildcats broke the draw in overtime.

In the 93rd minute, Randolph junior midfielder Adam Watson scored the game-winner off a free kick that placed in the lower corner of the net.

“Randolph was organized defensively and especially dangerous on set pieces,” senior forward Christian Meyer said.

With 22 total shots throughout the contest, the Eagles had opportunities to break the early tie against the Wildcats. In the 61st minute, Khattab had a chance to score the first goal of the game. Khattab used his mobility to get his head on a cross, but his effort went high and wide.

One of Emory’s best chances occurred later in regulation when senior forward Michael Carragher had a shot to slot in the potential game-clinching goal. Following a clever one-two from Meyer and McCartney to cut through the Wildcat defense, the ball found its way to the foot of Carragher. However, Carragher’s attempt at goal missed, just inches wide of the net.

“We played pretty well today and created a number of opportunities in the final third,” Meyer said. “We failed to put some of our best chances on target, and just needed to be a bit sharper with our finishing to win the game in regulation.”

Following a disappointing weekend, the Eagles (2-2) hope to rebound with a pair of upcoming matches next weekend. The Eagles get a short break before their next match at Sewanee: The University of the South (Tenn.) Sept. 13, followed by a home contest against Birmingham-Southern College (Ala.) Sept. 16.

The Emory women’s soccer team started off on the right cleat with a 2-1 win over Georgia Gwinnett College Sept. 1 at the Grizzly Soccer Complex in Lawrenceville, Ga,  marking the team’s third consecutive season-opening victory. The Eagles also won in dominant fashion Sept. 4, in a 4-0 landslide against Pfeiffer University (N.C.), bringing their season record to 2-0.

Georgia Gwinnett had multiple shots on goal in the first 16 minutes of the match, but the game’s tone shifted when junior forward Sophia Dillon scored Emory’s first goal of the match and season. Emory’s spirits lifted after Dillon’s goal, but the Eagles were unable to sustain control as both teams struggled to maintain possession.

“The game had a lot of momentum shifts,” Head Coach Sue Patberg said. “We were at them in the first half, got end line a lot … got a bunch of corner kicks and scored an early goal. Then [in] the second half, the momentum shifted and they were really at us.”

Georgia Gwinnett tied the game up when the Grizzlies’ junior forward/midfielder Caitlin Berry scored 18 minutes into the second half. While the Eagles initially appeared to have lost their momentum after Berry’s goal, their attacking players continued to press Gwinnett’s back line.

“The momentum shifted again towards the end of the game, and [we] did really well getting numbers forward and outnumbering them in the final third,” Patberg said.

With less than a minute remaining in the game, junior forward Abbe McCarter broke away from the midfield, dribbling the ball to the edge of the penalty box to make the winning shot against the Grizzlies’ keeper. This not only marks McCarter’s first goal of the season, but also the first game-winning shot of her career.

“For the past two years that I’ve been on the team, we’ve had a lot of ties and we’ve gone into overtime,” McCarter said. “Right after I scored, I remember running up to my teammates being like, ‘This is not going to happen again.’ That was my main thought.”

On Labor Day afternoon, the Eagles maintained their winning streak by defeating Pfeiffer University in a 4-0 shutout.

“We had a lot of really good chances in the first half,” Patberg said. “We probably should have scored three goals in the first half, but we didn’t. In the second half … [we] moved the ball faster, finished our chances well, created more dangerous chances, kept the ball in the final third better than we had. We were just sharper.”

The Eagles ended 2016 with a 9-5-3 ledger, making it Emory’s 28th consecutive winning season. With a 2-0-0 record, the Eagles have positioned themselves well to begin this new season.

The Eagles next opponent will be Johns Hopkins University (Md.).

“It’s especially good that we have two wins under our belts to give us a little bit of confidence for the weekend,” McCarter said. “Johns Hopkins is a really good team, and so I think we’re really excited for the opportunity to play them, excited to be tested because [the Blue Jays] are going to be a really hard opponent for this season.”

Emory will meet with Johns Hopkins Sept, 9, on the road in Raleigh, N.C., before matching up with Meredith College (N.C.) Sept. 10.

Junior midfielder Tyler Walsh fights for a loose ball in the Eagles’ 1-0 victory over Pacific Lutheran University (Wash.) Sept. 2. Kevin Kilgour/Sports Editor

With two home games in the Sonny Carter Invitational to start off their 2017 campaign, the Emory men’s soccer team had its sights set on a 2-0 start. The Eagles delivered in their first game, defeating North Carolina Wesleyan University 3-0 Sept. 1, before a narrow escape past Pacific Lutheran University (Wash.) 1-0 Sept. 2.

The Eagles didn’t wait long to showcase their offensive potential, striking first in the 24th minute off a free kick from junior midfielder Moustaffa Khattab. They doubled their lead just 12 minutes later, after a pass from senior midfielder Christian Meyer found the feet of senior forward Jason McCartney deep inside the Wesleyan box for a simple tap-in finish. The Eagles took a commanding 2-0 lead into halftime.

“We wanted to get off to an early start and try and press [Wesleyan] a little bit higher and get an early goal,” Interim Head Coach Cory Greiner said.

Wesleyan took better control over possession in the second half, but once again Emory found the back of the net. With 29 minutes remaining, senior center midfielder Adam Ferguson placed a corner kick just over the penalty spot. The cross found the head of McCartney, who placed the ball into the upper 90 for his second goal and enabled Emory to cruise to a 3-0 victory.

Barely 24 hours later, the Eagles found themselves back on the field for their second match of the Sonny Carter Invitational against Pacific Lutheran University. Once again the Eagles took an early lead but struggled to hold off a Pacific Lutheran team hungry for its first win of the season.

The Eagles’ goal came from an unlikely source, as senior center back Cody Gardiner placed a low, corner shot past the outstretched arm of Pacific junior goalkeeper RJ Noll. Much credit goes to Gardiner’s fellow defender junior Aidan Datene, who slipped past a Pacific defender along the end line and delivered the critical assist just 12 minutes into the match.

“I checked my shoulder and saw that only one guy was behind me, so I immediately thought, ‘If I can turn, I’m just going to try and get by him,’” Datene said. “I was able to do that and then the first white shirt I saw, I put a pass in as hard as I could.”

Taking the 1-0 lead into halftime, the Eagles looked poised to build on their lead after a dominant first half, during which they outshot the visiting Lutes 12 to two. The Lutes had other plans.

Not more than five minutes into the second half, the Lutes blasted a shot that found its way straight into the far post, narrowly missing what would have been a game-tying goal.

“They started throwing some extra players forward and taking some risks,” Greiner said. “When we didn’t score in that first portion of the second half, they still had some life and started taking those chances.”

The Lutes continued to apply pressure, especially in the final 20 minutes of the half, as both sides of the field opened up due to what was likely a combination of both fatigue and aggressive offensive play.

With eight shots in the second half, the Lutes gave themselves multiple opportunities to tie up the match but failed to capitalize. One of the game’s best chances came with only one minute remaining when Pacific senior forward Eddie Na found himself on a breakaway up the left sideline. With a clear shooting lane available inside the box, Na elected to instead pass to a cutting Lute attacker. This decision was ill-advised, as two dropping Emory defenders closed the passing lane and cleared the ball to preserve the 1-0 victory.

“We did capitalize pretty well, but our whole team felt that their were some areas to improve,” Meyer said. “As a group, we are still capable of playing much better than we have so far.”

The weekend’s shaky conclusion leaves the Eagles with concerns, but the team’s defensive unit has to be pleased with their performance. The veteran leadership of Gardiner, senior central defender Georges Daoud and Datene held strong, preserving two shutouts through the Eagles’ first two games.

“There is definitely a lot of chemistry this year: I’ve played with [Daoud] and [Gardiner], and then the left back position we have guys that can come in and play at a really high level,” Datene said.

One key addition to that defensive unit is junior defender Tyler Santee, a recent transfer from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Santee sat just between the back defensive line and the midfield unit, holding a sort of stopper position that seemed to take significant pressure off the back line.

“[Santee] had a fantastic game Saturday just cleaning up behind our midfielders and in front of our back four,” Greiner said. “At [University of North Carolina at] Pembroke, he had primarily been a central defender … but he has the size, he has the pace, he reads the game really well and I think he is capable of stepping in the midfield and having a little more impact for us in that position.”

With two wins under its belt, Emory claimed the tournament title and will happily advance to the next weekend of play with a 2-0 record. The Eagles face yet another back-to-back schedule this weekend in the Washington & Lee Invitational, challenging Washington & Lee University (Va.) Sept. 9, before a meeting with Randolph College (Va.) Sept. 10.

The men’s soccer team practices ahead of the Sonny Carter Invitational this weekend. The Eagles kick off at home against North Carolina Wesleyan College Sept. 1 at 4:30 p.m.. Ruth Reyes/Photo Editor

Last season, the Emory men’s soccer team failed to earn a bid to the NCAA DIII Men’s Soccer tournament. Now, the team returns to the pitch with a chip on its shoulder. The Eagles will have no shortage of experience with 10 of the 11 starters from last year’s squad back on the field, but one key member will no longer be in the huddle: Head Coach Sonny Travis.

Travis became the athletic director at Coe College (Iowa) Aug. 28, leaving Emory after 10 years and 122 wins. Prior to his term at Emory, Travis served as both the athletic director and men’s soccer coach at Virginia Wesleyan University. Now, with more than 400 wins tallied across a 31-year coaching career, Travis is ready to take on a new challenge.

“[Returning to an administrative role] is something I have been thinking about for a while,” Travis said. “I wanted to get back to a situation where I could do just administration and build an athletic program and work with coaches.”

Cory Greiner, who has served as assistant coach for the last five years with the men’s soccer program, was named Interim Head Coach. While no one on the team could have predicted Travis’ departure, the transition to Coach Greiner has been nothing short of seamless.

“Things have transitioned pretty smoothly,” captain and senior center back Cody Gardiner said. “All the guys are excited about the direction the program is going, but it was definitely a shock when we were told about the coaching change because no one knew it was coming.”

Travis’ abrupt departure certainly creates a hurdle for the Eagles as they prepare for their first match less than a month after switching head coaches. However, Travis was confident that the experience of both this year’s roster and the current coaching staff would help mitigate the challenge.

“I feel like I have left the program in really good shape, and that’s the only way that I would leave this late in the summer,” Travis said. “There was a good assistant coach in place, we had good captains in place, we had a good returning roster … and I hope they can take it to the next level.”

As an experienced member of this Emory program, Greiner has a solid foundation from which to work and is hopeful that he can build on the culture already in place.

“We have the same group, the same values, the same core,” Greiner said. “There is nothing too drastically different.”

With so many returning starters and six seniors on this year’s roster, the Eagles can ill afford to struggle through the coaching change if they wish to avoid a repeat of last year’s result and capitalize on their potential. Their 10-5-1 record last season would be considered excellent by most standards, but some players felt slighted by their absence from the NCAA tournament.

“We had 10 wins, or whatever it was, but no one really cared about that given that we didn’t make the tournament, didn’t win the conference,” Gardiner said. “There is a lot of resentment about how things finished off last year and we want to go out and prove that getting left out of the tournament isn’t indicative of the talent that we have as a team.”

Returning seniors this year include defenders Gardiner and Georges Daoud, midfielder Adam Ferguson and forwards Christian Meyer, Michael Carragher and Jason McCartney. Last year, McCartney led the team with seven goals and seven assists and was named to the All-UAA First Team. Gardiner was named All-UAA Second Team, as was junior forward Moustafa Khattab. Other returners to look out for include junior midfielder Evan Floersch and sophomore midfielder Jun Tsuru, who demonstrated impressive composure during his freshman season last year. Of the team’s newer players, Greiner was most impressed with junior defender Tyler Santee, a transfer from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Greiner explained that one of the team’s biggest areas of improvement must come in their ability to recognize mistakes and make adjustments accordingly.

“There are going to be times when we make a mistake and it’s going to cost us a goal,” Greiner said. “That’s natural, that’s a part of soccer, that’s a part of life. We want to be able to see that, replicate that, and fix it.”

The Eagles typically face a challenging schedule, both in and outside of UAA play, and that will surely be no different this season. Key matches include an early road challenge at Washington & Lee University (Va.) Sept. 9 and another away contest at University of Chicago Oct. 7.

For now, the Eagles have their eyes set on their first match against North Carolina Wesleyan College Friday, Sept. 1, at home in the annual Sonny Carter Invitational. Emory will have little rest before their second game Saturday, Sept. 2, against Pacific Lutheran University (Wash.), which will conclude the weekend invitational.

Columbus’ compact defensive lines made life difficult for the Atlanta attack. Kevin Kilgour/Sports Editor

Atlanta United FC returned home and returned to form June 17 with a much needed 3-1 win against the visiting Columbus Crew SC. The win brings United’s record back up to .500, 6-6-3 on the season, and jumps them ahead two slots in the Eastern Conference standings, where they are now No. 6 with 21 points.

After Atlanta’s last homestand, in which United won two games by a combined score of 7-2, hopes were high that this team would finally find some consistency. Thus, when Atlanta lost its next two road games, June 3 against the Vancouver Whitecaps and June 10 against Chicago Fire, much of their confidence was lost. United leads the league with 31 goals this season, but failed to come away with more than one goal over the entire road trip.

“Whenever you win, you feel good; whenever you don’t, you question yourself,” veteran midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said. “After those two road losses, we needed to get back to basics and there is no easier way to do that than to play at home.”

Two-game losing streak aside, Columbus’ road struggles and defensive shortcomings provided plenty of reason for optimism for United supporters. Entering Saturday’s match, Columbus had allowed the most goals in the Eastern conference (26) and had the most road losses of any MLS team (seven). Pair those weaknesses with Atlanta’s explosive offense and recent home dominance, and this looked like a match made in heaven for United.

Rain delayed the game by just under 30 minutes, yet Atlanta still appeared unprepared for the opening whistle. In the first 10 minutes, costly turnovers resulted in two excellent opportunities on goal for Columbus. However, Atlanta goalkeeper Alec Kann made the save each time, denying Columbus an early lead.

While Columbus had failed to capitalize on their earlier opportunities, Atlanta cashed in on a Columbus mistake in the 16th minute. Pressure from Atlanta midfielder Yamil Asad forced a turnover deep in the Columbus back line, allowing Asad to lay it off softly for cutting forward Tito Villalba, who had an easy finish into the lower left corner of the Crew goal. Asad’s assist gives him eight for the season, tying for the most in the MLS with Toronto midfielder Victor Vazquez.

The Atlanta lead was short-lived. In the 26th minute, a dipping cross found its way to Columbus midfielder Federico Higuain, who nimbly brought the ball down to his feet in a crowded Atlanta penalty box and pushed the ball off his outside foot, just past a lunging Kann. The goal tied the game at one, a score that would hold into halftime.

The first half was riddled with mistakes from both sides, and that trend continued into the second. Whether it was the waterlogged pitch or simply a lack of focus, neither team could get a solid grip on their attack, and both relied on errant passes to generate offense.

“Passing wasn’t sharp tonight,” Atlanta captain and center back Michael Parkhurst said. “Credit to Columbus for making it difficult for us. They dropped back and were very compact, making it difficult for us to play through their lines.”

 

Fans unfurled another pro-United banner prior to Saturday’s match. Kevin Kilgour/Sports Editor

For a moment, it seemed as though the only bright spot of the second half would be the entry of Atlanta forward Josef Martinez. Competing in his first home game since he injured his left quad while playing with Venezuela’s national team in March, the crowd exploded when Martinez was subbed on for Atlanta midfielder Julian Gressel in the 63rd minute.

While the crowd’s energy was at its highest, play on the field remained sloppy and the score was locked at 1-1.

That all changed in the 67th minute when Atlanta midfielder Miguel Almiron showed once again why he is one of the deadliest attackers in MLS. Collecting the ball at midfield following an excellent tackle from Atlanta center back Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Almiron put on the afterburners, bursting all the way to the Columbus 18-yard box. Almiron then calmly struck a low roller swiftly into the opposite corner, just between two Crew defenders and beyond the outstretched arm of Columbus goalkeeper Zack Steffen, giving Atlanta a critical 2-1 lead.

“I was a little fortunate on that play,” Almiron said humbly of his eighth goal this season. “It’s not like I tried to perfectly place it in that spot.”

With the slim advantage, Atlanta made a few defensive substitutions, hoping to hold off Columbus through the match’s final 20 minutes. But Atlanta’s offense wasn’t quite finished. In the 88th minute, midfielder Kevin Kratz sent a slick pass into the goalie box to a sitting Martinez, who collected the gift and blasted a screamer into the Crew goal, providing the exclamation point on a much-needed 3-1 victory.

“After the goal that I scored I was a little emotional, because before I came on I heard all the fans applauding me and chanting my name,” Martinez said. “I’m happy to get the goal tonight because we knew that … it was really important to get these three points at home.”

Colombus’ loss brings them to 2-7 on the road, tying them with Real Salt Lake for the most road losses of any team in the MLS. Away games have not been kind to many teams — across the league, the visitors have a 33-98-39 record. Why home teams are performing so well is something that MLS will need to investigate; but for now, home field advantage remains the single greatest factor of most MLS games this season.

This is a busy stretch for Atlanta, with three games over the span of eight days. They travel to last-place D.C. United June 21 before returning home for a matchup with western foe Colorado Rapids June 24.

Atlanta fans unfurl a banner proclaiming the superiority of peaches over apples. Kevin Kilgour/Sports Editor

With their home match against New York City FC (NYCFC) May 28, Atlanta United FC capitalized on an opportunity for redemption after a 3-1 loss May 7 in New York. Atlanta’s emphatic 3-1 win at Bobby Dodd Stadium over the No. 3 team in the East standings brings their season record to 5-4-3 and brings them to No. 7 in the East with 18 points.

Now 12 games into their 34-game season, consistency has been the toughest hurdle for this Atlanta team, which started the season with the third youngest roster in the MLS. At 4-4-3, United has shown flashes of offensive brilliance interspersed with periods of carelessness on the ball and poor communication among the defensive line. That has lead to unpredictable results, from a 4-0 win March 18 over the current No. 2 team in the East, the Chicago Fire, to a 3-1 home loss against last place D.C. United April 30.

“[Major League Soccer] is a bit of a roller coaster,” technical director and former U.S. Men’s National Team captain Carlos Bocanegra said. “For an expansion team, we are going to have to do a good job of not getting too high after this win.”

In their May 20 match, United exploded offensively with four goals in a victory over the visiting Houston Dynamo. Accounting for the strong performance in their prior home match, hopes were high that Atlanta could keep the wheels turning against NYCFC.

“Our game in New York City was our biggest disappointment of the year and we wanted to atone for that tonight,” center defender and team captain Michael Parkhurst said.

Given the absence of injured Atlanta forward Josef Martinez and Head Coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino, who was suspended due to his ejection against Houston, Sunday’s matchup was set to be a battle of two attackers: Atlanta’s Miguel Almiron, whose hat trick against Houston earned him MLS Player of the Week honors, and NYCFC’s David Villa, the former World Cup Champion from Spain and last year’s MLS MVP.

“[Villa] is so crafty,” Parkhurst said. “He is a lot faster than you think. He just needs to get you a little off balance and he’s by you.”

Forward Yamil Asad lets loose a shot just outside the box. Kevin Kilgour/Sports Editor

Early on, Atlanta showed determination to stretch the NYCFC defense, sending cross-pitch long balls as often as they could, while NYCFC exposed Atlanta’s high back line with a few well-placed through balls. Neither team would capitalize until the 16th minute, when Almiron struck.

Controlling the ball in the midfield, Almiron threaded a ball ahead to midfielder Julian Gressel. Gressel kindly returned the favor, skipping a difficult pass to a trailing Almiron, who calmly took a touch before drilling a shot just below the outstretched arm of NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

“[Almiron] brings speed, intelligence, and he is a really complete player,” forward Hector Villalba said. “He is able to bring a lot to our game: we are able to play quick touches and play the ball into space.”

It was at this point that Atlanta opened the floodgates, scoring all three of their goals in a seven-minute flurry. Three minutes after Almiron’s strike, Villalba received a through ball at the corner of the box from midfielder Yamil Asad. Villalba took a strong touch inside before blasting a screamer to the opposite post that easily beat Johnson for a 2-0 lead.

The onslaught resumed in the 23rd minute when Gressel bodied NYCFC defender Alexander Callens off the ball near the opposition’s end line. Gressel then dribbled inside before laying off another trailing pass to Almiron, whose sliding shot found its way into the opposite corner of the NYCFC goal. Almiron’s second goal, a mirror image of his first, gave Atlanta a 3-0 lead and had fans singing with glee just 25 minutes into the match.

“Our pressure up front was fantastic,” Parkhurst said. “When their guys don’t have time to pick up their heads, it makes [the defensive line’s] life a whole lot easier.”

With victory in sight, the remainder of the match was fraught with chippy play, but Atlanta handled the pressure well. A bending cross from NYCFC defender Ben Sweat found the foot of a cutting forward Jack Harrison for NYCFC’s lone goal in the 71st minute, but there was little panic in the Atlanta side. Atlanta goalkeeper (and Decatur native) Alec Kann produced a solid performance, making the necessary saves and helping set up the Atlanta attack with a keen distributive eye.

“We talk about the attackers doing so well and scoring a lot of goals, but it starts with [Kann], the defenders and the midfielders distributing it out up top so that these guys can score,” Bocanegra said.

With two of the match’s goals to his name, Almiron was given player of the game honors, but Gressel was equally deserving. His pressure, strength on the ball and ability to power through tough tackles shone more so in this game than it has all season and makes him yet another weapon opponents must address if they wish to slow down the Atlanta attack.

“I’m a versatile player,” Gressel said. “I am confident on the ball and want it at my feet. It is different kinds of things that set me apart from other players … [in this way] you find your way within the system and within the team.”

With two straight home wins under its belt, Atlanta will take to the road for a match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC (5-5-1) June 3. United will then visit the Chicago Fire (7-3-3) June 10 before returning for their next home game against the Columbus Crew (6-7-1) June 17.

In what turned out to be their final game of the season, the Emory men’s soccer team fell short in a close match against the Yellowjackets of the University of Rochester (N.Y.), losing 1-0. The loss ended the Eagles’ season, who finished with a 10-5-1 record on the year, placing No. 4 in University Athletic Association (UAA) standings.

Playing in their fourth consecutive road match, the Eagles came into Saturday’s game knowing that their season could have very well been on the line. Both Emory and Rochester found themselves on the cusp of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, and both knew that a win on Saturday would likely put them into the tournament field.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, for much of Saturday’s game, the ball seemed to be bouncing in favor of the Yellowjackets. The match’s first and only goal came in the 29th minute, when Rochester freshman defender Cristian Baltier’s long throw-in found it’s way through a scrum and into the Emory goal, giving Rochester the early 1-0 lead.

“There was a lot of commotion in the box, and it went through into the goal,” junior center defender Cody Gardiner said. “We had been moving the ball really well up until that point, but it was just an unlucky goal, and there wasn’t much we could do about it.”

Not 10 minutes later, Gardiner managed to score a spectacular bicycle kick into the left corner. However, the play was called offside, stripping away what would have been the tying goal for the Eagles.

The Eagles continued to apply pressure on the Yellowjackets, including a shot from senior midfielder Scott Haley, who was able to play in the final couple games of the season despite an early season knee injury that was expected to sideline him for the rest of his senior year.

“We weren’t expecting to get [Haley] back, given how serious the knee injury was, so being able to play on the field with him for the last few games meant a lot,” Gardiner said.

With the clock dwindling down on the season, the Eagles put together one final push, with two shots on goal coming in the final 10 seconds. Both were saved by Rochester sophomore goalkeeper Patrick Conway, who finished the game with five saves and a clean sheet.  Conway’s efforts helped preserve the Yellowjackets’ 1-0 victory.

While the game’s result was disappointing, Head Coach Sonny Travis was pleased with his team’s effort and performance.

“As a coach, I’ve probably been [to Rochester] four or five times, and we have won a couple times, but this was the best I’ve seen us play at Rochester,” Travis said. “Our guys came ready to play Saturday night and really left it all on the field.”

NCAA tournament selection took place Monday. As many players suspected, the game against Rochester turned out to be a tournament play-in game, with Rochester managing to secure themselves a bid in the tournament and the Eagles finding themselves one of the first teams left out of the tournament field.

“We were definitely a bubble team,” Travis said. “We were still highly considered, but we needed a [win] in that last game.”

While their exclusion from the national tournament will sting for some time to come, the Eagles have a lot to be proud of this season. Ten wins is no small feat, and a few players contributed tremendous individual performances, including the likes of junior forward Jason McCartney and sophomore forward Moustafa Khattab. McCartney finished the year with seven goals and seven assists, while Khattab tallied five goals and four assists.

“Everyone is a little disappointed right now,” Gardiner said. “With the talent that we have, we were hoping to make the tournament and make a good run, but we had a lot of opportunities to give the young guys on our team some good experience this year, which will hopefully prepare us for next year.”

The Eagles will surely miss seniors Jason Andrejchak and Haley, but the team has a lot to look forward to next year when they will return almost the entirety of their current roster.

“The chemistry on our team and the hardworking mentality of our players really came through this year,” Travis said. “With the young group that we had, we had some growing pains, but other than the Brandeis [University] (Mass.) game [a 2-0 loss], we truly had a chance to win [every game]. We expect to bounce back from this setback, and I hope this lights a fire for our guys coming into 2017.”

In a road weekend heavy with the weight of postseason hopes, Emory’s men’s soccer returned home in uncertain fashion, losing 2-0 in their first match against Brandeis University (Mass.) (10-4-3) Friday before winning a close 1-0 battle over New York University (8-7-2).

The weekend results dropped Emory (10-4-1) to No. 3 in the University Athletic Association (UAA) standings, just behind No. 2 Brandeis. No. 1 University of Chicago (Ill.) clinched the league title with a win over Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.) Sunday, dashing the Eagles’ hopes of a UAA title.

In their first match, the Eagles faced not only the Brandeis University Judges, but also the cold, rainy conditions of Waltham, Mass. The Eagles fell down early when Brandeis junior midfielder Christian Hernandez managed to get his head on a free kick in the 26th minute and give the Judges the 1-0 lead.

Unfortunately, the Eagles never managed to pressure the Judges, who completely shut down the high-tempo Eagle offense in the second half.

“You have to give Brandeis credit, because they played really well and stopped us from playing a possession game, which is what we like to play,” Head Coach Sonny Travis said.

After firing off six shots in the first half, the Judges prevented the Eagles from registering a single shot in the second. The dagger came in the 76th minute when senior defender Thales Brito finished a header off a corner kick to give the Judges a firm 2-0 victory.

“We definitely had some good chances in the second, but once they got the second goal, they broke the momentum to the end,” sophomore defender Aidan Datene said.

For the Eagles, Friday’s performance was frustrating.

“Brandeis definitely played better than us,” sophomore midfielder Moustafa Khattab said. “Brandeis is a good team, but we all agreed after the game that that was our worst performance of the year.”

In dire need of a win, the Eagles traveled to Riverdale, N.Y., to take on the N.Y.U. Violets Sunday. The match was dominated by Emory, but N.Y.U. managed to hang tight thanks in large part to an incredible performance by Violets’ senior goalkeeper Lucas Doucette, who notched 10 saves on the day to deny the Eagles any breathing room.

“He is the best goalkeeper in the conference,” Travis said. “He had a tremendous game, and [if not for him] I think it could have been 2-0 or 3-0 for us.”

Fortunately for the Eagles, a strong defensive effort, combined with a much needed goal from Khattab, proved enough to edge the Eagles to a 1-0 victory.

The scoring play began with junior center midfielder Adam Ferguson, who switched the ball across the pitch to Khattab, who proceeded to settle it, cut inside and finish into the corner.

The goal was Khattab’s second game-winner on the season, his first during the match against Washington University in St. Louis (Mo.) Oct. 8., Travis said.

“[Khattab’s] goal against N.Y.U. was outstanding. It was a big time goal against a very good keeper,” Travis said. “It made [N.Y.U.] come out of their shell defensively, which helped, because if they were able to sit back and defend, they were going to be very effective with their keeper.”

The Eagles’ regular season will conclude next Saturday when the Eagles travel to Rochester University (N.Y.) (8-4-3).

“I think we will carry the momentum [from Sunday] moving forward, and I think we will step up against Rochester knowing that our season rides on that game,” Datene said.