Penalty kick keeps 14th-ranked men atop UAA

By Flynn Murphy

In a thrilling double-overtime victory over visiting New York University, the Chicago men’s soccer team completed one of its busiest—and most successful—weeks of the year. The win propels the Maroons (10-1-2, 2-0-2) into a first-place tie atop the UAA standings with Emory University, with only three conference games remaining.

The Maroons, who have struggled offensively as of late, finally found the back of the net on a penalty kick, defeating NYU 1-0 in the game’s second overtime. The final series began when third-year Jim Logan capped a strong defensive performance by recovering a contested ball and sending it downfield to third-year forward Brian Standerfer. A single NYU defender was the only obstacle separating Standerfer from a goal and a victory. As he made his move left, the lone NYU defender brought him to the ground in a manner usually reserved for American football. A yellow card was given and a penalty kick was called.

“The boy who fouled Brian made a rash decision,” said head coach John O’Connor. “But I did think it was a penalty. If you continually foul, you draw attention to yourself.”

Fourth-year Ben Preyss once again exhibited his famed resolve under pressure by launching the subsequent penalty kick into the left corner of the net for his team-leading seventh goal of the season and fourth game winner.

“Some of the NYU players were trying to ‘ice’ me by faking an injury and stalling, and another tried to dig up the ground around the [penalty kick] spot,” Preyss said. “But I tried to tune everything out and just focus on hitting a quality ball.”

Despite the recent string of victories, the Maroons have struggled offensively. As O’Connor said, “We’re creating chances, but just not finishing them.”

Perhaps the Maroons best scoring chance came in the 86th minute of play when third-year forward Ryan Ehle’s run drew the NYU goalkeeper out of the net. Ehle passed to a wide-open Standerfer on the left side of the box. Standerfer launched a bullet that ricocheted off the crossbar. A questionable call awarded possession to NYU, ending the Maroons’ drive.

In the first overtime, third-year midfielder Giordano Palloni seemingly won the game with a shot past the NYU keeper, but the linesman called Palloni offsides.

The convincing 1-0 win marked the landmark ninth shutout for second-year goalkeeper Keith Crum. With four breathtaking saves in that key win, Crum surpassed the previous school mark of eight shutouts set by David Collar in 1997.

The cathartic Sunday victory against NYU came after a long week of soccer battles for the Maroons. After a home victory over a then 9-2 Wheaton College on Tuesday, the Chicago men went on to defeat Brandeis 2-1 on Friday.

Preyss drew first blood with a goal in the 41st minute. Brandeis (6-9-0, 1-3-0 through Monday) responded just three minutes into the second half. Palloni notched the game-winning goal in the 54th minute. His strike came at the end of an impressive series of one-touch passes that started with a high rebound from the goalkeeper, was kicked out to the right corner, crossed to the left side, and then put in by Palloni.

A large number of fouls—some for dissent—were called on the Maroons in the second half. However, Chicago’s stellar defense held strong in the face of penalties and a strong Brandeis attack in the final few minutes. The weekend could have gone a lot differently if not for a game-saving play with two seconds left.

Having put nearly continuous pressure on the Maroons in the last few minutes, Brandeis took one last, uncontested shot on goal from inside the box. Crum made a diving kick save that sent the rebound flying high into the air and sent the Judges packing.

“It was a very busy week,” O’Connor said. “To play two games in one week, followed by a weekend game, says a lot about the guys’ concentration.”

Chicago hosts non-conference opponent UW-Oshkosh (5-4-3) Saturday on Stagg Field.