Soccer

After Atlanta hoisted the 2018 MLS Cup, rumors surrounding midfielder Miguel Almiron and forward Josef Martinez immediately surfaced. The two Designated Players (MLS teams can only have three) seemed to have outgrown the league, with an instinct for scoring that only certain elite players possess. Josef Martinez put the gossip to rest by signing a five-year contract extension with United on Jan. 16. Later that month, the team signed midfielder Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez as another Designated Player (having one more than the allotted three), and Almiron’s future was further put into question. Finally, on Jan. 31, Almiron signed with Premier League team Newcastle United for a record fee for an MLS player: around $26 million.

Almiron leaves Atlanta as a club hero after tallying 13 goals and playing a pivotal role in its MLS cup success. Since joining United from Lanus in 2017, Almiron registered 21 goals and 28 assists in 62 games with Atlanta. While Almiron’s replacement is well-equipped to take over the reins, Almiron had an indescribable connection with Josef Martinez and the duo’s ability to pass and score was invaluable to United.

Despite the bittersweet departure from Atlanta, Almiron is determined to prove his worth with Newcastle in a more competitive atmosphere.

“I’m very happy and eager to start and to meet my new teammates,” Almiron said. “I think it is a great responsibility, something beautiful for me, and I will try to offer the best I can to repay the trust the club put in me.”

While some fans will be proud to see Almiron’s development progress, United has sold arguably the best player in the MLS and an undoubtedly popular player on their roster. The fans and team alike must be patient and re-adjust to the major loss.

To soften the blow, Pity Martinez was signed to be Almiron’s replacement. Yet, the player nicknamed after an Argentinian bird is arguably more qualified than Almiron. Pity Martinez is the reigning South American Footballer of the Year, an honor previously awarded to legends like Brazilian forward Pele and Argentinian forward Diego Maradona. He also played a crucial role in River Plate’s 2018 Copa Libertadores triumph, helping them win the most prestigious club trophy in South American soccer.

Like Almiron, Pity Martinez is known for his dribbling skills and speed with the ball. Pity Martinez seems determined to make his mark on United and support Josef Martinez in continuing his impressive goal scoring. When asked about joining Atlanta over other teams, Pity Martinez had a simple answer: “I’m someone who likes a challenge … I know that Atlanta’s a club that’s winning titles, and I’m someone who likes to compete for titles.”

His statement is indicative of Atlanta’s rapidly growing reputation as a premier soccer team in the MLS. Pity Martinez added that he aspires to play soccer in Europe, and he knows that Atlanta’s reputation will help attract the attention of top teams.

“Atlanta is a club that’s doing things well, so I know that if I perform well, there will be opportunities … to go to Europe,” he said.

While Atlanta is ready to succeed without Almiron, some argue that Newcastle gambled on Almiron, buying him before he fully developed. Almiron excelled in the MLS, but the physical rigors of the Premier League (widely regarded as the most competitive soccer league) are on a different level. Regardless, Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez has faith in Almiron’s talent.

“We know that MLS is a different challenge to the Premier League but he has the potential to do what we are expecting and what we need,” Benitez said.

Speaking on Almiron’s effect in the MLS, Benitez did not hold back on compliments.

“His impact in MLS had been really good, Benitez said. “He has been one of the best players this year … and hopefully he can give us more competition and more quality in the final third,” Benitez said.

Some view this as a positive sign for the reputation of the MLS. A Premier League team rarely signs MLS players for the amount of money splashed on Almiron. In fact, United only paid $8 million for Almiron and made a substantial profit from his sale.

Almiron follows a trend of young players developed by MLS teams and sold to European teams, like former New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams, who was sold to Red Bull Leipzig in the German Bundesliga.

Showing that there is life beyond Almiron, Atlanta United crushed the Seattle Sounders 7-1 in the first game of the pre-season on Feb. 2. Pity Martinez scored his first goal for United in a scrimmage match in California. If Atlanta can carry this momentum into the regular season, Almiron’s loss may soon be forgotten.

As the gold confetti and red smoke cleared, Atlanta United fans could hardly believe their eyes: the Five Stripes won their first Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup in only their second season of existence. Head Coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino delivered the most deserving of parting gifts to United fans, going into the final as the future coach of the Mexican national team. Martino’s replacement, Dutchman and former defender Frank de Boer, has endured an inconsistent beginning to his managerial career. Despite the team’s retention of key players (such as forward Josef Martinez), Atlanta faces a difficult task to defend the MLS Cup.

It was always going to be a challenge to replace Martino, the 2018 MLS Coach of the Year, and attract an elite coach to the notably less competitive league. When news broke that Martino would be leaving after the 2018 season, Atlanta fans were justifiably concerned that Martino would be irreplaceable. Atlanta lost the maestro that orchestrated an incisive, counter-attacking style of soccer that has drawn in record crowds. Their entertaining brand of soccer made United arguably the most exciting MLS team.

Frank de Boer is charged with the tough task of replicating Martino’s unprecedented success. To his credit, de Boer is a veteran of elite soccer and has tremendous expertise from which to draw. He has experience playing for world class teams like the Dutch national team (tallying the third most appearances ever for that team) and F.C. Barcelona, and has extensive managerial success with top Dutch club team Ajax.

However, even de Boer’s most passionate supporters will admit that his recent managerial profile is bleak. The Dutchman made headlines in 2017 after he was fired from Crystal Palace, who plays in the Premier League, after the team started the season 0-4 and scored no goals.  His four game managerial tenure was the shortest in Premier League history.

Despite his recent failures, de Boer has had success as a manager after guiding Ajax to a record four Eredivisie titles in a row. Moreover, the higher quality of opposing teams in Italy and England, and the relative misfortune of de Boer’s firings (some believe he was fired too early), paint an unfair picture of de Boer’s potential in the substantially weaker MLS.

United fans can be encouraged by de Boer’s experience as assistant manager to the Netherlands national team (assisting in their second-place finish in the 2010 World Cup). Also, in a promising interview with ESPN, de Boer emphasized his desire to keep fans entertained and to obtain international success by winning the coveted CONCACAF Champions League.

Despite the managerial change, Atlanta has a largely unchanged roster for the 2019 season. Goal scoring machine Josef Martinez will lead the attack for 2019, and is committed to Atlanta until 2023 after signing a massively important five year contract this month. Amid reported offers from top European teams in 2018, Martinez committed to Atlanta United in a decision that bodes well for the reputation of the MLS. The MLS has faced criticism for becoming a league for aging European players, and for not fostering and retaining young talent.

Talking about his contract extension, Martinez called it his “dream” to stay with Atlanta.

“Surely right now in Venezuela they’re saying negative things about me,” Martinez said. “They think I should be playing for Barcelona or Real Madrid. But for me, this is my Barcelona, my Real Madrid.”

Martinez added that the people of Atlanta had won him over with their “affection,” making it clear that he values the passionate Atlanta fans and is motivated by their support.

“I’ve said before that I don’t want to go anywhere because this is my home,” he said. “You can expect more work, more intensity, because that’s who I am. I want to win. I want to do everything for my teammates and for the city.”

Additionally, forward Julian Gressel is in the process of signing a long-term contract, and his contribution is critical to Atlanta’s success. The German registered 14 assists last season, and his ability to play multiple positions in attack, midfield and defense made him a vital team player.

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan has shown no indication of leaving, while team captain and defender Michael Parkhurst will also return for the 2019 season. United looks well set to continue to have one of the most impenetrable defenses in the MLS.

However, playmaker and midfielder Miguel Almiron, the Robin to Martinez’s Batman, has not signed an extension with United. The Paraguayan and Atlanta’s highest paid player is a match-winner for Atlanta, both with his ability to score goals and create assists, but that talent has also caught the attention of elite European teams. It remains to be seen if Atlanta possess the financial ability to keep Almiron, given the high demand for his services.

Overall, it will be more difficult for Atlanta to retain the MLS Cup than it was to win the 2018 title. United must retain Martino’s attacking philosophy that has struck fear into the MLS in order to become the fourth team to win two consecutive MLS cups. United boasts a talented roster with skilled replacements at almost every position, but it is unclear if de Boer possesses the skill set to utilize the team in the same way Martino could. With United’s remarkable fan support and star performances from players like Martinez and Almiron however, few bookies would bet against the Five Stripes.

Atlanta United FC cruised to a comfortable 3-1 aggregate win in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Finals on Nov. 29 at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. United’s 1-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls did not impact the aggregate score, allowing them to finally win some silverware to support their domestic success. Importantly, United got revenge on their conference rivals after the Red Bulls snatched the Supporters’ Shield from Atlanta’s grasp on the last day of the regular season on Oct. 28. At long last, United finally rewarded their diehard fan base and followed up their remarkable success in the regular season with a well-deserved Eastern Conference Championship trophy.

Just 12 seconds into the game, Atlanta forward and talisman Josef Martinez had a golden one-on-one opportunity with Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles. But Robles made a brilliant point-blank save to deny Martinez.

Martinez lost the chance to effectively end the game and silence the boisterous New York crowd. While a 4-0 lead would be insurmountable on its own, the official MLS rules favor away goals over home goals. If Martinez had scored, then the Red Bulls would have needed five goals to win the conference title on aggregate score.

Again, Atlanta preceded their phenomenal attacking reputation and pushed for the contest-winning goal. In the 20th minute, midfielder Julian Gressel fired a low, long-range shot outside the box, but Robles made a full dive to push the shot wide. One of the few bright spots in the Red Bulls’ disappointing performance, Robles played brilliantly, making four saves to keep New York in the game and give the home crowd some hope until the final whistle.

In the second half, New York enjoyed some promising possessions, and looked poised to score a goal as they closed in on Atlanta’s goal. In the 51st minute, the Red Bulls missed the opportunity they needed to give them a realistic chance of winning. The attacking move started when forward Daniel Royer played an incisive pass into the goal box to fellow forward Alejandro “Kaku” Romero. Then, Kaku hit a low, driven cross toward goal, with one of the best passes of the game.

New York played the ball into the perfect space, too far for the goalkeeper to claim and close enough to concern any defense. While midfielder Alex Muyl received the pass about three yards from goal, he misjudged the pass and skewed his shot wide. After that missed chance, the Red Bulls lacked any kind of offensive edge despite enjoying 70 percent

That is, until New York appeared to score in the 80th minute. Kaku again was at the center of the action when he delivered a lackluster cross to nobody in particular. But, when Atlanta tried to head the ball out of the box, the ball looped into the air.

Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan came out to punch the ball to safety. But he only proved that goalkeepers should stay away from professional boxing when he punched the ball straight up. On the second chance, Guzan tried to catch the ball, but New York defender Aaron Long headed the ball out of Guzan’s hands and into the net.

Guzan and Atlanta were furious. Since Guzan appeared to have control of the ball, and jostling with the goalkeeper after he or she has possession of the ball is against the rules, the Red Bulls had not scored a legitimate goal. The video review system (VAR) was used to examine the goal, and the technology overturned the New York goal.

While the review made the correct decision, the outcome was tough for the Red Bulls as this was their second goal of the conference finals ruled out by VAR.

However, the Red Bulls would not back down. New York stole Guzan’s clean sheet when they scored from a corner in stoppage time. The ball landed awkwardly in front of Guzan, but when neither the Atlanta defense nor he attempted to clear the ball, New York defender Tim Parker poked the ball into the net. But with only one minute left to score two points, the goal was one of the most anticlimactic of the entire MLS postseason. Not a single Red Bulls player celebrated as they knew the result of the game was a foregone conclusion.

Atlanta will be giddy with excitement when they host and contest the MLS Cup on Dec. 8 at 8 p.m. at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Importantly, outgoing Atlanta United Head Coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino will look to end his reign by winning the most coveted trophy in American soccer in his final game with United.

In 2017, Atlanta United FC played its inaugural MLS season and the team immediately won the hearts of native Atlantans and casual MLS supporters alike. Equipped with owner Arthur Blank’s keen business sense, United built a southern soccer dynasty that has dazzled the league with their attacking firepower and their entertaining brand of soccer.

While the 2017 MLS Cup evaded their grasp in their first season (narrowly losing to Columbus Crew SC on penalties), it was unprecedented for an expansion team to advance as much as United did. Moreover, the club took pride in being named by Forbes as the most valuable MLS franchise in only their second season, worth about $330 million.

But Blank has not broken the bank on established superstars (consider former midfielder David Beckham’s $30 million deal with Los Angeles Galaxy), and he has fostered a successful team culture with immediate results rather than building a team driven by individual talents. As a testament to their team rather than individual success, Atlanta United players have five of the top 25 best-selling MLS jerseys according to Forbes. No other team has more than three.

To put their astonishing success in perspective with European teams, Atlanta United has drawn more fans to their games than five-time Premier League champions Chelsea FC. Although they narrowly lost to Columbus Crew SC on penalties last year, Atlanta is in prime position to make a deep run in the playoffs this year after narrowly missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the New York Red Bulls in their second season.

One of the key factors to Atlanta’s success has been Blank. Throughout his investment in United, Blank has emphasized six core principles through his philosophy, according to Inc.

“Put people first, listen and respond, include everyone, innovate continuously, lead by example and give back to others,” Blank said.

Leading by example, Blank was determined to build a successful team with a talented squad, experienced coach and veteran administrative staff.

United turned the collective heads of international football when they signed former FC Barcelona manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino. After just two seasons with the team, Martino’s success with Atlanta earned him the manager position on the Mexican national team according to ESPN. Martino will leave after United’s postseason run as a club legend, having established a remarkable precedent for success and making the playoffs in both of his seasons in charge. Martino has groomed forward Josef Martinez and midfielder Miguel Almiron into world-class players capable of excelling in top European leagues.

Blank also recruited former Tottenham Hotspur F.C. executive Darren Eales. With experience at one of England’s most successful teams, Eales dedicated himself to building a solid team foundation for the MLS newcomers. Before United even began playing, Eales spent about five days per week scoping out Atlanta bars and pubs — which he jokingly dubbed “Pub Crawl Our Way to Success” — to connect with the community and explore ideas about how to market the club effectively.

While Atlanta is not nationally known as the best sports city, Blank seeks to change that. For one, United defied the MLS trend to splurge on veteran, established stars who carry the team. For example, Orlando City SC signed former Ballon d’Or winner (awarded to the best soccer player in the world) and Real Madrid midfielder Ricardo Kaka to kickstart their entrance into MLS in 2015. But despite Kaka’s presence, the team failed to make the playoffs.

Moreover, Blank has overseen remarkable success in organizing his team like a startup by investing in players with great potential and earning the trust of fans. For instance, United’s key marketing campaign features the motto “Unite and Conquer,” in which United players are featured with “Conquer” and fan photos accompany “Unite.” The campaign is hard to argue against in terms of building unity and passion in the team.

United’s striking playing style has also factored substantially into the club’s success and huge fanbase. In an interview with The New York Times, Eales emphasized that the club wants to prioritize playing exciting soccer games to draw in fans and create a passionate fan atmosphere.

We’re in the entertainment industry, so let’s build a team that is attacking,” Eales said. “If we’re going to win a close game, I’d rather win 4-3 than 1-0.”

This approach contrasts European teams like Atletico Madrid, which are known for winning at all costs, even if the fans get bored by a 1-0 scoreline. Atlanta has consistently delivered on its promise, with Almiron and Martinez frequenting the goal and assist leaderboards.

Fans have shown their gratitude at home games with arguably the most passionate and vocal supporters section in the league. Atlanta only lost twice at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the 2018 season, tied with three other teams for the least number of home losses. This phenomenon creates a sporting symbiosis that fuels game excitement and fan passion.

After beating the Red Bulls 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Final first leg, United are well on their way to rewarding their diehard fan base and intelligent management with silverware this season. Atlanta will look to book their place in the MLS Cup final with the second leg of the Eastern Conference Final against Red Bulls on Nov. 11.

Senior defender Nikki Batt lunges for the ball in a match against the University of Lynchburg (Va.) on Nov. 10. The Eagles made their first appearance in five years in the NCAA D-III Women’s Soccer Championships this weekend. Courtesy of Hannah Grasberger/Lynchburg Athletics

The No. 22 Emory women’s soccer team kicked off its first post-season run since 2013 on Nov. 10 and 11 in the first and second rounds of the NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Championships hosted by the University of Lynchburg (Va.). In the first round, the Eagles came out on top against the Pennsylvania State University-Berks (PSU) Nittany Lions 1-0, but suffered a heartbreaking loss in the second round against Lynchburg 2-0.

In the first round match against PSU-Berks, the Eagles and Nittany Lions faced off in a dramatic back-and-forth battle.

After a scoreless first half, the Eagles had three goal opportunities in the 77th minute of the second half, but they were unsuccessful in driving any home. Sophomore midfielder Samantha Hilsee’s first chance was stopped on a kick save by PSU sophomore goalkeeper Bristol Pizzuto before senior forward Sophia Dillon’s rebound ricocheted off the crossbar. Just seconds later, sophomore defender Caroline Moore threatened PSU-Berks with a header that was saved by Pizzuto.  

Senior goalkeeper Dani Staffin closed out the game with 11 saves, her career second-best and fourth clean sheet of the season. Four of her saves came during the final five minutes of regulation, keeping the Nittany Lions scoreless and sending the game into overtime.

Just two minutes and seven seconds into the first overtime period, senior forward Abbe McCarter fired a shot from the right side of the 18 and buried the ball into the left corner of the net, chalking up the first and only goal of the match and sending the Eagles to the Round of 32. The game-winner was McCarter’s team-leading fourth and fifth overall goal of the season.

“I remember stepping on the field, just hoping as a senior that it wasn’t about to be my last time ever playing,” McCarter said. “I knew that we had such a special team, and we had all worked so hard to get here, and we definitely deserved to make it past the first round. It was more after the goal that all of it hit me, how much had been riding on that moment.”

The Eagles led the match in shots 24-21, but PSU-Berks had an 11-9 edge on shots on goal. The victory extended Emory’s win streak to eight games and boosted their overall record to 14-4-1.

Senior defender Danielle Darius and sophomore defender Lily Dresner both helped contain the nation’s leading scorer, PSU-Berks senior forward Caitlin Golden, who averages a D-III best 5.55 goals per game.  

In the second-round match against No.17 Lynchburg, the Hornets controlled possession throughout the first half, outshooting the Eagles 10-2. In the 37th minute, senior forward Caitlin Mertens dished the ball to junior forward Alyssa Rudy inside the box, allowing Rudy to bury the ball into the lower left corner.

In the second half, the Eagles retaliated, applying heavy pressure up front. In the 46th minute, junior forward Caroline Kolski recorded Emory’s first scoring opportunity with a shot from the top of the 18, which Lynchburg goalkeeper Delia LoSapio deflected. In the 53rd minute, Darius rocketed a shot off a corner kick which LoSapio once again stopped.

Freshman midfielder/defender Lauren Mahoney fights for ball possession with Lynchburg on Nov. 10. Courtesy of Hannah Grasberger/Lynchburg Athletics

The Hornets sealed the Eagles’ fate in the 87th minute when the Eagles turned the ball over to Lynchburg senior forward Emily Sanchez who beat out the Eagle defense and finished to the top left corner.

Lynchburg outshot Emory 16-11, with an 8-5 edge on shots on goal. Junior forward Shivani Beall led the Eagles with five shots and two on goal, while Kolski followed with three shots and two on goal. Staffin headed the Emory defense with eight saves.

“I think we were on our heels in the first half, but came out in the second with more energy,” Head Coach Sue Patberg said. “We got a lot of chances, and we put on so much more pressure and kept them in their half for a majority of the time.”

The Eagles ended their 2018 season 14-5-1, the most wins in a single season since 2013. The Hornets will go on to the Round of 16 on Nov. 17 against Messiah College (Pa.).

“We had a really accomplishing season this year, and it felt great to get back into the tournament,” junior defender Paige Santee said. “Every person on the team stepped up to a higher level, every training session and every game. The energy on our team was unlike previous years, and I can only see it getting better in the future.”

The Emory women’s soccer team ended the regular season on a strong note with a 3-1 win over the University of Rochester (N.Y.) on Nov. 3 at Fauver Stadium in Rochester, N.Y.

With the victory, the Eagles finish the season with a seven-game undefeated streak as well as five consecutive victories. The team closed out with an overall season record of 13-4-1 and a conference record of 4-2-1, good for third place in the University Athletic Association (UAA). The Eagles’ third-place UAA finish is the best by the program since 2013.

Sophomore defender Caroline Moore scored the first goal of the afternoon — and her fifth goal of the year — in the 17th minute. She tapped the ball into the right post off a cross from senior forward Sophia Dillon.

The Eagles maintained their lead until halftime. Senior goalkeeper Dani Staffin made several saves to keep the score even. Her defensive prowess showed in the 54th minute when she made a double save, keeping out a penalty and the rebound. However, the Yellowjackets found an equalizer a minute later as Rochester senior forward Kerri Eden scored from inside the box.

The Eagles opened the floodgates within the last quarter of the match. Freshman midfielder Lindsey Breskow scored off a deflection from a cross by junior forward Shivani Beall in the 68th minute. Sophomore midfielder Samantha Hilsee finished off the Yellowjackets in the 83rd minute with a header from sophomore midfielder Lily Dresner’s free kick.

The Emory defense also impressed, not allowing another shot on target during the last 28 minutes.

The Eagles heard new good news Nov. 5 as they earned a bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014. This will be the Eagles’ 17th overall appearance and ninth under Head Coach Sue Patberg.

“We were nervous going in,” Staffin said. “There aren’t a lot of people on the selection committee from the South, so we were a little bit unsure heading in [if we’d get into the tournament]. Good to see we made [the tournament].”

The Eagles will face Penn State Berks in the first round of the NCAA tournament at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 10 in Lynchburg, Va.

“We haven’t played this team before,” Staffin said of Penn State Berks. “However, we’ll have a couple of solid practices, so we should be ready.”

The Emory men’s soccer team finished its season with a draw against the No. 3 University of Rochester (N.Y.) on the road. The final score of 0-0 on Nov. 3 is reflective of the Eagles’ season of mixed highs and lows. The team finishes with an overall record of 9-7-2 and a conference record of 0-6-1, meaning they will not play in the NCAA tournament.

Saturday’s game started slowly for Emory. The match quickly began to turn against them, as Rochester found a shot on goal only three minutes into play. Sophomore goalkeeper Cole Gallagher was ready on the save, foreshadowing the team’s strong defensive play throughout the match.

The Eagles’ offense struggled throughout the first half. Though Rochester found consistent shots every few minutes, Emory failed to get a play far enough forward to add a shot to the scoreboard. The team would end the half without a single shot.

Despite the disappointing performance on the attack, the first half was full of praiseworthy play from the defense. None of Rochester’s six shots in the half found their way home. Gallagher marked a second save for himself before the end of the first 45 minutes.

Rochester entered the second half with continued high energy shown by two shots in the first five minutes of play. The second shot was poised to score until senior midfielder Tyler Santee made a literal “heads-up” play and blocked it with his face. Santee, a regular leader on the defensive end, kept the defensive spirit of the first half alive for the Eagles.

With 30 minutes left in regulation, Emory sophomore forward Nate Sampson found the team’s first shot of the match. True to the pattern they showed throughout the season, the Eagles accelerated, making the end of the second half their strongest segment of the match.

Emory added three shots on goal to the scoreboard before regulation expired. The shots all came from familiar stars on offense: senior forward Moustafa Khattab, junior midfielder Jun Tsuru and junior midfielder Keegan McCombie.

Overall, the Eagles showed vast improvement in the second half, only being outshot 4-5 as opposed to the 0-6 line from the starting half. In addition, their defense continued to hold out against consistent Rochester aggression.

Despite their gain in momentum near the end of regulation, the Eagles could not continue the pressure into what would end up being two overtime periods. The team did not find another shot for the remainder of the night. In the end, Emory’s defense knuckled down and resisted push after push from the Yellowjackets to bring the match to a draw.

“Our defense played very well,” Gallagher said. “We got out of a couple of close call situations, and I was really happy with how our back half and our defensive guys played.”

Gallagher ended the night with an impressive five saves, a positive way to end a difficult season and the key contribution to saving Emory from a loss.

Overall, the season was a tumultuous one for the Eagles. In regional play, the team was unstoppable, finding nine wins, one loss and one tie. But in conference play, they seemed like an entirely different team. The careful, precise and aggressive team that beat Millsaps College (Miss.) and Sewanee: The University of the South (Tenn.) 4-0 gave way to a fatigued and back-footed team who failed to score against the University of Chicago and Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.), finishing both matches 0-2.

Although they were unable to accomplish their season goal of a tournament appearance, the Eagles managed to pull off a winning record and cement some truly entertaining matches in the records. A draw in their final match may not be as satisfying for fans and players alike, but against a highly ranked team like Rochester, it is hardly a disappointment.

Senior forward and co-captain Moustafa Khattab faces off against Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.) on Oct. 26. The Eagles lost 2-0 to the Tartans to start off a winless weekend. Sarah Taha/Staff

The Eagles suffered two shutouts on Oct. 26 and 28, a disappointing way to mark the Emory men’s soccer team’s final two home games of the season. Despite moments of impressive control in both games, second-half fatigue ultimately cost the Eagles both matches and likely their chance at a tournament berth.

Friday evening’s matchup against Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) (Pa.) looked like the closest game of the season so far in the first half. Despite the Tartans getting off to an early shot lead of 7-4 in the first 25 minutes, the Eagles found a wave of energy in the latter part of the half. Not only did the team put themselves in the lead in terms of shots, but they also gained clear control of the ball and the match. Seeming like themselves early in the season, Emory made clean, quick passes and outmatched CMU defenders.

After leaving the field tied 0-0 at halftime, the Eagles returned ready to play. Despite firing off a shot in the first five minutes of the second half, the team could not continue to play at their previous pace. The offense’s attacks became more spread out and thereby more easily intercepted. Few plays came close enough to the goal to develop into shots.

On the other end of the field, Emory’s defense seemed to tire out. A slow response to a loose ball in Emory’s own half allowed CMU junior midfielder Elliot Cohen to slip past the last man. Emory sophomore goalkeeper Cole Gallagher brought Cohen to the ground in an attempt to prevent a goal, leading to a penalty kick which Cohen promptly sunk into the net.

Another defensive mishap let CMU junior midfielder Jack Painter weave into the box and score from around Gallagher. With only 12 minutes remaining in the match, the Eagles tried to rally with a late header shot from senior midfielder Tyler Santee, but to no avail, ending the game 2-0 in the Tartans’ favor.

Junior defender Jimmy Tricolli prepares to clear the ball against Carnegie Mellon. Sarah Taha/Staff

Sophomore defender Josh Berman, who had a strong performance throughout the match, said the team kept him going despite the difficult game.

“Everyone on the team has your back, even the players on the bench,” Berman said. “We go out every game trying to win, and that’s what we’re going to do on Sunday.”

The Eagles rolled into Sunday’s Senior Day match versus Case Western Reserve University (Ohio) hoping to keep their chances of appearing in the NCAA tournament alive. Unfortunately, the match ended in favor of the Case Western Spartans after Emory fell victim to many of Friday’s shortcomings.

Emory started the match with clear improvements in communication. The players talked audibly on the field, warning teammates of defenders and open-pass opportunities.

Despite an early goal by Case Western senior forward Alex Besl into the back-left corner, the team managed to keep building energy. Yet another Spartan goal by junior forward and midfielder Zachary Senft off a penalty kick seemed to only spur on the Eagles. After allowing these two goals, Emory turned around the last 20 minutes of the half, making them the strongest of the day.

Once again in the second half, the Eagles could not find a clean opportunity to score. Overshot passes continually led to possession changes against the team. Meanwhile, the Case Western offense only increased their pressure.

Emory junior goalkeeper Trevor Stormes, who had five saves during the match, obtained a red card and left the game after charging Case Western sophomore midfielder Connor Weber and denying him a shot on goal. Weber scored on the resulting penalty kick to bring the score to 3-0 Spartans.

Khattab handles the ball under pressure from Carnegie Mellon. Sarah Taha/Staff

Junior midfielder Jun Tsuru, who piloted one of the team’s three shots on goal, felt Emory’s offense lacked in consistency. He expressed the need for a “striker who plays consistently over every game, so he can mold and have chemistry connecting with the rest of the team.”

“For us it is obviously disappointing result,” Head Coach Cory Greiner said. “At this point our entire focus has been just to enjoy ourselves and enjoy our soccer, and to see if we can find a way to manufacture a chance to score goals.”

As for his objective for the team’s final regular season game?

“I don’t care about the result,” Greiner said. “I want to see — can we enjoy ourselves? And can we score a goal in the conference?”

The Eagles will play the University of Rochester (N.Y.) on Nov. 3 at 11 a.m.

The Emory women’s soccer team defeated Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) (Pa.) 1-0 on Oct. 26 and celebrated Senior Day on Oct. 28 with a 2-1 win over Case Western Reserve University (Ohio), boosting the Eagles’ overall record to 12-4-1 and extending their win streak to six games.  

Against CMU, junior forward Caroline Kolski drove home her third goal of the season in the 57th minute to break the scoreless tie. Throughout the whole game, both teams attempted just 15 shots the Eagles with eight and CMU with seven forcing the teams into a primarily defensive battle.

During their second match, the Eagles pounced early, scoring both goals in the first half. Freshman midfielder Lindsey Breskow put away her third career goal as an Eagle at the 28th minute, driving home a long shot into the far corner.

Just four minutes later, junior forward Shivani Beall netted her team-high ninth goal of the season off a ball from freshman midfielder Arielle Williamson from inside the six-yard box.

“The connection between [Beall] and [Williamson] was phenomenal,” Head Coach Sue Patberg said of the goal.

In the second half, Case Western retaliated when freshman forward Christina Hickson dished the ball to sophomore midfielder Lizzy Barna who beat Staffin to the near post in the 88th minute.

Overall, the Eagles outshot Case Western 32-8 and led shots on goal 11-5. Phaneuf finished her final regular-season home game leading both teams with seven shots, two of which were on goal. Staffin closed out her final regular-season home appearance with four saves.  

Before the start of the match against Case Western, the team honored its nine seniors: forward Abbe McCarter, goalkeeper Dani Staffin, defender Danielle Darius, defender Hope Morgan, midfielder Jordan Doak, midfielder Madison Phaneuf, defender Nikki Batt, defender Nylah Hamilton, and forward Sophia Dillon, and with an on-field ceremony.   

Darius, who played on Haiti’s U-20 World Cup squad this past summer, reflected on her journey as an Emory Eagle.

“Because we have been striving towards a common goal — a championship — for years, I have never been more passionate about soccer than when I play with Emory women’s soccer,” Darius said.

Her collegiate experience and lessons learned throughout her four years on the team is something that she will cherish forever.

“I have grown in many ways being on this team,” Darius said. “Being on a college team has been an experience that is not replicable in any other environment.”

Co-captain Batt added to the sentiment of gratitude towards the team.

“Emory soccer has given me a family that I can confide in about anything and everything,” Batt said. “I’ll never stop loving and cheering for this group of remarkable women. … I’m so thankful for them and for the opportunity I had to play collegiate soccer for this amazing school.”

Patberg said she hopes her seniors leave her program saying, “‘I wouldn’t change a thing.’”   

The Eagles return to action on Nov. 3. for their final regular-season game at the University of Rochester (N.Y.).