Men's Soccer Head Coach John O'Connor has stressed two important words all season: results matter. More than individual statistics or outshooting opponents, results are what teams strive to produce.
This past week, the Maroons got results.
Starting with a 3-1 win over Emory University last Friday, Chicago continued their string of strong performances with a crucial 1-0 win over UAA rival New York University. This past Wednesday, the Maroons capped off the week with an impressive 3-0 win over regional opponent Illinois Wesleyan. With three wins in their past three games, Chicago now boasts a 9-3-0 record (3-1 in UAA play).
Before leaving for Emory last week, Coach O'Connor admitted that the grueling weekend road trip could be tough.
"Going away is always hard; we were also missing [third-year goalkeeper] Micah Prochaska, which didn't make things any easier," O'Connor said.
Despite the odds, however, the Maroons played well in Atlanta. Chicago outshot Emory 21-15, and, after Emory scored the first goal of the match, the Maroons answered with three goals. Second-year midfielder Ben Preyss struck first for Chicago at the end of the first half. Then first-year Brian Standerfer scored in the 75th minute. Fourth-year Barret Van Sicklen scored in the 80th minute, and, at that point, Chicago seemed to have the match under control.
Of course, while Coach O'Connor was pleased with his team's offensive performance, he also had nothing but praise for third-year goalkeeper Taylor Singleton. Singleton filled in for Prochaska, and he did an admirable job.
"Taylor came up huge," O'Connor said. "He actually wound up with defensive player of the week honors. Taylor got a chance in a big game, and he just made some huge saves for usespecially one with about five minutes to go in the game."
After the win over Emory, the Maroons headed to New York, where they faced a perennially strong New York University squad. To make matters more difficult for Chicago, NYU plays on a small fielda factor that does not sit well with the normally free-flowing and talented Chicago players.
"It's a small field, it was raining, so it was a bad field, and it's UAA competition," O'Connor said. "All in all, that doesn't make for a pretty game to watch. [Third-year] Nathan Widell was out with an injury, and it was just a tough, tough playing situation."
Despite the odds, the Maroons dug deep and got the result. They didn't play pretty, but they came out with the victory.
Once again, a first-year made the difference. First-year midfielder Giordano Palloni took a free kick from Van Sicklen, and scored the only goal of the game.
While the Maroons held on for the win, as seems to be a fixture in UAA matches this year, the NYU game was not without some controversy.
"In the last 15 minutes of the game, we were called for three questionable yellow cardsone for a supposed delay of game, another questionable one given to Giordano, and then [third-year] Matt Wiechert was sent off on a second yellow for what I thought was a pretty soft foul," O'Connor said.
Overcoming the adversity, Chicago earned the win, but they faced regional foe Illinois Wesleyan without Wiechert, their talented defender/midfielder.
However, against Wesleyan, it didn't seem to matter much.
"We dominated portions of the match," O'Connor said. "We didn't get any goals in the first half, but we started hitting some hard crosses in during the second half, and we got a bit more opportunistic too, and then the goals started coming."
This game could have been a blowout, but the Wesleyan keeper made some good saves, and the Maroons didn't manage to put away all the chances they created.
Regardless, third-year Eugene Sung and fourth-year Kevin Donovan emerged as the two players of the match. Sung recorded an assist and a goal, and Donovan scored the third and final goal of the match in the 82nd minute.
Overall, Coach O'Connor has been very pleased with his team's performance at this point in the season.
"We've practiced moving the ball around with speed, and that's really working in games," O'Connor said. "Also, we've had guys step up and perform. We're a deep team this year. [Fourth-year] Ross Kessler stepped up and played 90 solid minutes against Illinois Wesleyan. Our guys have been tested, but they've all held the line well."
Tomorrow, at 3:00 pm, the Maroons face Dominican, and the game promises to be an entertaining affair.
"Dominican will have some skillful individuals," O'Connor said. "They're very organized, and they should be a good test for us."