Patriots extend streak with weekend wins

Senior forward Taylor Morgan battles with St. Peter's senior Andrew Kelly in a 5-1 win. (photo by Cory Woods)
Senior forward Taylor Morgan battles with St. Peter's senior Andrew Kelly in a 5-1 win. (photo by Cory Woods)

In blowout fashion, the George Mason men’s soccer team (5-0) extended their season opening win streak with a 5-1 win over St. Peter’s (2-2) and a 3-2 win over St. Francis (1-4).

Despite changes on the defensive line from the 2011 season, the Patriots limited St. Peter’s scoring power Friday night. It wasn’t a difficult job since the Peacocks’ goals have overwhelmingly come from Noah Sadaoui in the early season. The defensive dominance was only a continuance from winning the D.C. College Cup only days before, allowing one goal in two wins.

With a win in their heads, Mason made their power felt early. In the third minute of the game, sophomore midfielder Brennan Zizi sent a ball to freshman forward Ghiles Harmouche, who finished the play with a quick body deflection into the goal.

Senior forward Taylor Morgan could not be outshone for long. In the thirty-third minute, sophomore midfielder Timi Mulgrew sent a corner kick high into defensive traffic. After a quick deflection, Morgan backed away from the goal and lined up to head the ball past the diving goalkeeper to double the Mason lead.

“The one I’m really happy about … Giles coming out,” said coach Greg Andrulis. “To have [Wes Sever’s] replacement come in and have a great touch and a great goal, keeping Taylor on track to keep getting his points. I thought his play tonight was outstanding on both sides of the ball. He’s chasing; he’s active. He played like a true leader.”

Sadaoui brought the St. Peter’s deficit to one goal with a finesse shot in the forty-first minute, threading the needle between Mason goalkeeper Dustin Butcher and the right post.

Coming out of halftime, the Patriots took command. With an increasing number of bench players, they extended the lead to 5-1. Junior defender Hugh Roberts, freshman midfielder Kevin Roberts and Mulgrew each claimed a portion of the total.

“We have a designed play where I do the long throw-in because I have a pretty long throw,” Hugh Roberts said. “And then, he likes me to go up top to score some goals, a designed play.”

Hugh Roberts, a defender, does not get much credit for his individual play since he was transitioned from the front lines to his current defensive position, but he is the team’s iron man. He holds down the center of the defense alongside senior Paul Andrews. Roberts is called for the long throw-in for a goal-scoring opportunity, and with the goal Friday, he solidified himself as a force to be reckoned with.

“You have incredible athleticism. He’s fast. He can jump. He has great agility,” Andrulis said. “But he’s going to score goals from his ability … He just gives us an awful lot in a lot of different ways.”

But it was lackadaisical play that nearly cost the Patriots game two of the weekend home stand.

It was a first half reminiscent of Friday night. Mason’s two quick scores from Harmouche and Morgan set up what appeared to be an easy win. A twenty-fifth minute free kick from 25 yards out went to St. Francis’ junior forward Gabriel Bagot, who finished the play from inside the box.

“I think it’s really important for me to be consistent. That’s the thing I’m trying to find,” Morgan said. “I try to score in every game. I have four in five now. Honestly, I try to hold myself to a high standard.”

Mason kept up their momentum until a cross from Mulgrew found Morgan in the box for a goal on a header. From there, the wheels fell off.

Just over six minutes later, St. Francis’ Bryant Vargas found himself in front of his own bench and became a bit chippy. In the commotion, he pushed one Patriot to the ground before being blindsided with a push from Mason’s junior midfielder Julio Arjona. Both players received red cards and the 10-on-10 matchup went on.

“The first red card was deserved, there’s no question about it. The second one was stupid retaliation by Julio who just needs to keep his head in the game,” Andrulis said. “I get it, you want to go in and protect your teammate, but you don’t need to go in and do a silly little shove to get a red card yourself.”

The deflated Patriot crew stopped their pressure and laid back on a 2-0 lead. In the eighty-ninth minute, Terrier Richie Arkoi shot long from outside the 18, less than a yard from Butcher. The keeper took a step to his right, and the easy play turned costly. A quick bobble kept Butcher from maintaining control, and he could do nothing but watch the ball roll into the net.

It was not enough time for the Terriers to capitalize. They pushed the ball into the final third, but found themselves lost in traffic as the final seconds ticked away. In a possible blowout, the Patriots escaped with a win.

“We’re trying to hold ourselves to a high standard,” Andrulis said, “but we really, really didn’t put in a good performance for most of the game, and that’s disappointing because at times we show we can be a good team. The lack of consistency today was shocking.

The lost ball brings back the goalkeeping conversation. Butcher and junior goalkeeper Sean Cote have been fighting for the starting job since Sean Kelly graduated in 2009.

“If I’m focusing on that, them I’m taking another step back,” Butcher said. “All I’ve got to do is focus on doing my job while I’m there.”

While Andrulis has been ready to commit so far this season to Butcher in goal, the three goals in the last two games – one on a glaring error – the commitment seems to be waning.

“That’s got to be a save. That’s not a very difficult ball,” Andrulis said. “We train every week to see who’s the sharpest. Everybody’s in every conversation throughout the week.”

After playing two games in three games, the Patriots take a break before continuing their 5-game homestand Saturday night against UMBC for a 7 p.m. start.

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