The No. 8 Emory men’s soccer team started their regular season on a high note with two home victories to win the Sonny Carter Invitational. In a thrilling start to the season, the Eagles claimed a 2-0 victory over Hardin Simmons University (Texas) on Aug. 31 and a 5-4 overtime victory over No. 14 Washington and Lee University (Va.) on Sept. 1.
Against Hardin Simmons, the Eagles were on the front foot. Within the first 30 minutes, the Eagles forced four corner kicks and four total shots. The first goal of the season came in the 40th minute from senior forward Moustafa Khattab, who knocked in a rebound from close range after a shot from freshman forward Ethan Cohen.
The Eagles’ second goal came early in the second half from junior midfielder Jun Tsuru, who capitalized on a rebound from his own shot, assisted by Khattab’s expert maneuvering from within the box.
The defensive efforts of sophomore goalkeeper Cole Gallagher preserved the game’s clean sheet by registering three saves in the game.
The next day, the Eagles overpowered the Washington and Lee Generals in a match that may go down as an absolute classic. Between the two teams, there were nine total goals scored — 16 shots on goal and seven saves between the two keepers.
Washington and Lee stole the lead 3-1 in the first half, a score normally seen as an insurmountable deficit. The Eagles miracuously tied the game 4-4, despite conceding another goal, scoring three goals in the second half. Emory clinched the Sonner Carter Invitational with an overtime goal courtesy of Khattab, who finished the weekend with two goals and an assist.
Senior midfielder Tyler Santee scored on a bicycle from a corner kick for his first goal of the season as well as the first goal of the game in the 15th minute.
Head Coach Cory Greiner described the feat as a “wonder goal,” emphasizing the team’s awe in the immediate minutes afterwards.
Washington and Lee responded with a goal of their own less than a minute later from senior forward Tyler Runge, who drilled a rebound to the upper 90 off a blocked shot. The Generals scored two more goals in the next 10 minutes to bring the score to 3-1 going into halftime.
“We weren’t able to get out of our own half,” Khattab said. “It was really just a mental thing, and we could’ve been more focused.”
The second and third goals Washington and Lee scored showed how Emory became a little too comfortable and needed a wake-up call.
“Two of their goals were replicas,” Greiner said. “Not to take anything away from them, but it came down to a few of our mistakes and mental errors.”
The Eagles brought the game back to a more manageable 3-2 score through a goal from freshman defender Will Tichy assisted by a far cross from Tsuru. Ten minutes later, Emory tied the game in the 65th minute with a goal by sophomore defender Josh Berman, also assisted by Tsuru.
The Eagles finally took over the lead in the 74th minute with a goal from Cohen in which he beat the Washington and Lee keeper on a fast break.
But in the 82nd minute, the Eagles lost the lead yet again to a goal scored by Washington and Lee’s junior defender Griffin Scott for his first goal of the season. The goal set up a golden goal overtime in which the next team to score would win the game.
“It was almost like we scored the fourth with too much time left,” Greiner said. “We sat back and became more defensive after we scored, and our mentality switched.”
The winning goal to close out an exceptional victory from the Eagles came in the 92nd minute. Khattab rifled the ball through traffic and into the goal, capping off a very promising start to the season for the team.
“Going into to every overtime game, I started planning to score a goal because you have to have that attitude,” Khattab said.
The goal was a surreal moment for the team as they clinched this improbable comeback victory against a highly ranked opponent.
“I honestly felt like I was in a Nike commercial,” Khattab said. “It was an unreal feeling and I’m just happy I could help the team get an unreal win.”
The Eagles displayed great teamwork this weekend, Greiner said.
“It is encouraging to know the guys can build off those moments when they face adversity,” Greiner said. “They can’t be afraid to do the dirty work where they don’t get recognized as much.”
However, the game’s scoreline suggests that there is still work to be done.
“Usually you don’t win games where you give up four goals, so we have work to do defensively,” Greiner said.
The Eagles look to build on these early season performances when they travel to Rutgers University-Camden (N.J.), where they will play against Rowan University (N.J.) in the Ciallella Classic on Sept. 8 at 2 p.m.
UPDATE (9/10/18 9:38 p.m.): An earlier version of this article was not posted in its entirety. The rest of the article has been added.