Thanks to a rejuvenated striking tandem, men’s soccer got back into the UAA race in a big way.
After getting off to underwhelming start to UAA conference play last weekend with a home loss to 20th-ranked Carngeie, Chicago (6–3–1, 1–1–0) rebounded with 2–1 victory over 17th-ranked Emory (9–2–0, 1–1–0) Saturday in Atlanta. Against a red-hot Eagles squad, the Maroons received goals from their two starting forwards, third-year Andrew Hamilton and first-year Edgar Friloux. The win evened up Chicago’s conference record and boosted the squad’s momentum going into a difficult week of matches.
In a far cry from the physical play that defined the match against Carnegie Mellon, crisp passing and assured movement from both sides ensured a more organized and smooth-flowing tempo from the opening whistle.
Growing into the game well, the Maroons won many of the 50-50 opportunities in midfield, and deservedly took the lead at the 26 minute mark. Friloux, getting the nod in place of first-year Jan-Michael Guerra up top, was the architect of the goal, picking the ball up and running with pace at Emory’s central defenders. As the defense stepped forward to close him down, Friloux weighted a perfect pass to his strike partner Hamilton, who was cutting diagonally across the top of the box. Hamilton made no mistake, finishing emphatically to put the Maroons up 1–0.
For the remainder of the half, the dynamic of the game continued to flow back and forth. Both teams put together nice passing combinations, although there were few clear-cut chances for either side. Friloux missed a golden chance to put the Maroons up by two goals near the end of the period, but his header off a set piece was knocked directly at the goalkeeper.
Emory came out strong in the beginning of the second half, and had the better of the exchanges early on. The Eagle’s offensive pressure paid off, culminating in a fortuitous goal that evened the score at one. After first-year central defender John Hughes attempted to clear a ball out of the Maroons box, the clearance rebounded directly off Emory fourth-year forward Chad Chambers’s shin and into the net past an awestruck Keith Crum.
Chicago though took it upon themselves to right the ship, and their persistence almost paid off in the 64th minute. Second-year Eric Floyd delivered a beautiful cross in from the left which was met by the oncoming Friloux. This time the Wisconsin native made no mistake and guided the ball with his head past the Emory goalkeeper to make the score 2–1 in favor of the South Siders.
Coming up big two minutes from time, fourth-year goalkeeper Keith Crum made a key stop to thwart Emory’s last-gasp effort. After a long ball caught the defense too far up, Crum came out well to make a huge stop, smothering the ball at the feet of an Emory attacker to ensure that the score finished in Chicago’s favor.
While speculation before the game centered around whether Wiercinski and his staff would switch his squad into a 4–2–4 formation similar to Emory, the rookie coach instead opted for a more traditional 4–4–2. The move allowed Chicago rather than Emory to dictate the flow of the game.
In an attempt to combat an Emory offense that had scored goals seemingly at will for much of its non-conference schedule, the Maroons spent much of the preceding week working on their defensive shape. The Eagles’ aggressive style, which reflected in their willingness to have their outside wingers press forward continuously, relies on the speed and ingenuity of their forward players and their ability to force favorable one-on-one situations.
Particularly pleasing to coach Wiercinski was the contribution of the two starting forwards Hamilton and Friloux who look to be working well together at the focal point of Chicago’s attack.
“They’re sort of a good compliment to each other in terms of their strength and their weaknesses,” said Wiercinski, who in the process earned his first career UAA victory.
“It really gave Edgar the license to run the way he wants and Hamilton did some of the other responsibilities that we put on the forwards [like holding the ball up and distributing it well]. That combination certainly worked well this weekend.”
Likewise, the defensive resilience that Chicago showed was satisfying, not only because it was something that the Maroons had made a point of working on in practice, but also because the collective effort that the team put in on the way to winning a game against a solid Emory team at home bodes well for the rest of the Maroons’ tough UAA campaign.
“We are good enough to beat every team in the league; I firmly believe that,” said Wiercinski. “It’s really going to come down to consistency, and that special play on that special day, and it could come from anybody in the team.
“One of the things I was happy with against Emory was that everybody who played, every sub who went in, was really aggressive and really consistent. That’s something we’re going to need for the rest of the season.”
Up next for the Maroons is a game today against Beloit (5–1–1) and an opportunity to improve their regional ranking while preparing for a massive couple of games over the course of next weekend. The squad will hit the road once again to take on Rochester (6–3–1, 1–1–0) Friday night before taking on Case (10–1–1, 1–1–0) Sunday in Cleveland.