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.).

A clean 3-1 victory over Berry College (Ga.) on Oct. 21 put an end to the Emory men’s soccer team’s six-game drought. In familiar fashion, the Eagles found renewed energy in the second half to secure a victory, utilizing strong defensive play to allow only nine shots from the Berry College Vikings during the afternoon.

The Eagles were the first on the scoreboard with one of the earliest goals they have had all season. Only 21 minutes into the first half, senior midfielder Aidan Datene routed an assist from senior forward Moustafa Khattab into the left corner of the goal. Emory kept on the offensive after the opening point, sending three more shots on goal in the next 10 minutes.

“We are trying to ramp up some of the intensity in the first 10 minutes and trying to press our opponents a little bit higher defensively,” Head Coach Cory Greiner said. “If we can’t manufacture a goal for ourselves in terms of being dangerous and creating chances, then we can hopefully try to turn a mistake by our opponents.”

The pacing of the first half slowed substantially after Emory found no further success from their early volley of shots. The clock reached five minutes until half without major action, only to be interrupted by a goal from Berry freshman midfielder Mason Hemstreet.

Overall, the half showed even play from both teams. Tied at 1-1 with a shot total of 5-4 (Emory), neither squad found enough leverage to pull away during the first 45 minutes.

Often a second-half team, Emory resumed play with a burst of strength. The Eagles found two shots on goal in the first two minutes, but both deflected. Berry faced a second opponent in the officials, acquiring an unusual five fouls early in the second half.

With 20 minutes remaining in regulation, the Eagles finally obtained the shot they needed. Senior midfielder Michael Stier took advantage of a Berry defensive gap to score, giving Emory a 2-1 lead. Maintaining momentum, Khattab encountered a one-on-one opportunity with the Berry goalkeeper three minutes later, which yielded one more goal.

Stier, who was injured for the past three games, said “it was really nice for me to be able to get back on the field and contribute in an important game.”

After the goals from Stier and Khattab, Stier said the team’s energy was reignited.

“[The team] just kept the pedal to the metal there in the second half and created even more chances,” Stier said. “We dominated after that.”

The match concluded with a slew of substitutions from both teams, eager to keep up the fight. Berry added three more fouls and a penalty to the scorecard in an attempt to take back the lead. Emory held on tight to keep the score at 2-1 and bring home a much-needed win.

On their progress this season, Greiner said the team “hit a stretch early in the UAA that was little bit of a reality check,” adding “I want to make sure we finish strong in the UAA.”

Sunday’s match marked the final non-conference game of the season for the Eagles. Their year so far has told a tale of two teams: one unstoppable regionally and one struggling in its conference. The rest of their schedule provides an opportunity to change that. Three wins in their final three matches would mean an overall record of 12-5-1 and a conference record of 3-4. Current conference leader University of Chicago holds a 3-1 conference record. If UChicago struggles to close out the season, Emory could climb to a tie in both their overall and conference records.

“We want to limit some of the bleeding,” Greiner said of his aspirations for the end of the season. “We also have an opportunity, if we do well, to make the NCAA tournament. That’s been a goal every single year. ”

The obstacle for the Eagles then is not just winning three matches but winning three conference matches. Having won mainly non-conference matches so far this season, the team will need to make some changes quickly to turn their season around, but luckily, the point totals in all their games have been very close. Adjustments to Emory’s first-half strategy such as early goals could be enough to push them to a victory.

One thing is for sure: The Eagles are out of room for error.

Emory will play Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.) on Oct. 26 at 5 p.m. and celebrate Senior Day against Case Western Reserve University (Ohio) on Oct. 28 at 11 a.m. at home.

The FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup has catapulted many women’s soccer players like Brazilian forward Marta Vieira da Silva and American forward Sydney Leroux into stardom. Emory’s senior defender and co-captain Danielle Darius joins their ranks with her debut in the 2018 edition on the Haiti women’s national U-20 football team.

A week before she took the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), Darius, a psychology major on the pre-med track, received a call from the Haitian coaches offering a spot on the team. She hopped on a plane to Haiti the day after she finished the grueling exam.

In Haiti, the student athlete said she had to adapt to the faster style of play for international-level soccer, as well as the language barrier within her own team.

“It was very difficult at first, being almost an outsider joining the team,” Darius said. “I knew a little bit of French, but I had to pick up on Haitian Creole. There were a couple of American girls that had played previously and helped me out.”

Sports runs in the Darius family. Both her brother’s and her father’s involvement in sports inspired her to take up track and field and soccer in high school. However, Darius, affectionately known to her Emory teammates as “DD,”  eventually stuck with soccer.

Darius’ love for soccer started at age six. Her childhood soccer journey led her from her hometown of Lutz, Fla., up to Emory, where she has become a standout player on Emory’s defense. As a testament to her importance to the team, Darius was the only player to start all 18 games during the 2017 season.

Playing as a fullback or outside defender, Darius is impressive both on defense and offense. While she was part of an Emory defense that kept nine shutouts in 2017, Darius also tallied three goals and an assist en route to being named to the All University Athletic Association (UAA) Second Team.

Despite her impressive Emory career, Darius was surprised when she learned of her call-up to the U-20 Haitian Women’s team for the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

“I was definitely shocked,” Darius said. “I had talked to the [Haitian] coaches before summer. I heard they needed people, but I hadn’t heard a lot after. I kept my summer open, but I was mostly focusing on the MCAT.”

Darius said she agreed to an offer to play before considering any other options because she was so excited for the chance to play for Haiti.

Darius has represented for Haiti before, when she played for the senior Haitian women’s team for the 2018 CONCACAF Cup qualifiers in May, catching the attention of the Haitian team selectors.

Fellow Emory senior defender and co-captain Nikki Batt said Darius’ warm personality is a great morale booster and facilitates a sense of teamwork.

“Personality-wise, [Darius] is easy to talk to, easy to approach,” Batt said. “She is always smiling, no matter what we are doing. It’s nice to see, when you are struggling, and she is looking at you with her big smile.”

Batt added that Darius’ intelligent playing style is another major asset to the team, saying Darius sets a great example with her commitment to the game.

“I would say [Darius] is a lead-by-example type of girl,” Batt said. “She likes carrying the team on her back. She loves having the responsibility of being a captain and an attacking defender. If we need to score, we throw ‘DD’ up top because we know she will get it done. She’s going to crash the goal.”

Batt said the Emory team was proud of Darius, known to her team as a hardworking, passionate and humble soccer player

“[Darius] is so humble, and very low-key about [her soccer ability],” Batt said. “We were doing a lift one day, and we were like ‘Where is DD?’ Then we found out she was trying out for the Haitian team in Florida. We all flipped out and texted her good luck. If anyone on the team were to get this opportunity, we’re all glad that it [would be] her.”

Many Emory teammates actively followed Darius’ U-20 World Cup games online, Batt said. The team kept in touch with Darius to wish her luck and motivate her through the tournament.

After her international experience, Darius said she expected a lot more from herself as an Emory Eagle. Upon returning to train with Emory, Darius noticed that her time on the professional pitch benefited her playing style.

“I was not accepting any bad touches,” Darius said. “I really wanted to be almost perfect.”

The summer also made her realize the value of teamwork.

“I value team chemistry a lot more now,” Darius said.

Depending on if she is accepted to medical school this cycle, Darius said she is open to playing soccer after she graduates from Emory. For now, Darius will look to sign off her Emory career on a high note. After scoring her first goal of the season and the game-winner against Brandeis University (Mass.) on Oct. 14, Darius is on track for a fairytale finish as an Emory Eagle.