Men’s Soccer rolls past Howard with offensive explosion

The Patriots erupted for nine goals in their shutout victory over the Howard Bison Thursday night to kick off the D.C. College Cup. They continue play in the Cup Saturday night against American (John Powell).

After falling 2-3 in their season opener to Boston College, the George Mason Men’s Soccer team (1-1) came back strong with a 9-0-blowout win over Howard University (1-1) Thursday night to even out their season record. This was the first game of the D.C. College Cup.

Howard came out the aggressor, tallying five fouls and two yellow cards in the first half, but the Patriots opened the first half strong.

Junior forward Taylor Morgan started the scoring streak less than nine minutes into the game, punching the ball to the right side off of a kick from freshman midfielder Verneri Valimaa. He sent another ball to Morgan at the end of the half to extend the lead to 5-0. Even against a seemingly weaker team, the Patriots did not let up.

“It was really good for our confidence to start as a team and start connecting passes and creating shots,” Morgan said. “I think it’s good to keep us confident for how we want to play.”

Morgan was involved in all but one scoring opportunity during the first half. After starting the run, he assisted on a rebound goal by sophomore midfielder Julio Arjona. After redshirt senior midfielder Sean O’Reilly scored unassisted from the left side, Morgan deflected a ball in from freshman midfielder Leo Stoltz to freshman forward Timmy Mulgrew for the score.

The Bison goalkeeper, Eric Hamilton, was unable to stop Morgan, with just two saves on eight shots on goal. After taking the loss, Hamilton was pulled in the second half for Michael Bellot, but Howard was still unable to slow Mason’s big scoring run.

Mason head coach Greg Andrulis, even with the lead, left most of his starters in for the first half and the first bit of the second to see how they would respond to a reenergized Bison offense.

“We said at half time when it was 5-0 that we needed to win the second half and be mature and have a high standard,” Andrulis said. “To the guys’ credit, we have some depth so when we put other guys in, they were hungry to prove that they could play, too.”

Junior goalkeeper Dustin Butcher took the start in goal, but with an overpowering Patriot offense, he only had the chance to make one save in the half. He opened the second half with 11 minutes in goal before being switched with sophomore Sean Cote in the second-team switch. Cote finished out the clean sheet with another save in the final 33:28 of the game.

Just as Morgan could not help but get involved in the first half, freshman midfielder Brennan Zizi stayed involved in every goal of the second half. He sent a ball to sophomore forward Hugh Roberts to start the scoring again six minutes into the half. He found the score from Valimaa on a header before teaming up again with Roberts and junior midfielder A.J. Sheta to finish the game with a 9-0 lead. 

“I think it’s great for them to get some minutes,” Morgan said. “We need to use the whole squad. So if we can make sure these guys get minutes, get some confidence, that’s great for us this season.”

Even with season-opening injuries to senior forward Ryan Gracia and junior midfielder Derek Markheim, two players who played the preseason on the front line, Mason showed enough depth to compete at a high level.

The real test for depth will be Saturday at 7:30 p.m. when the Patriots take on American (1-1-1) at home in game two of the D.C. College Cup. The coaching staff began working on their game plan after Thursday night’s contest.

“American is going to be a tough test,” Butcher said. “We just have to stay as focused as we did before today’s game, then I think we’re going to be the team to

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