When men’s soccer opened their UAA schedule this Saturday against a highly ranked, high-scoring Emory squad chock-full of experienced players, it was clear the Maroons needed to play sharp to make the game competitive.
As it happened, Chicago wasn’t close to being sharp, and the game simply wasn’t close.
After going up 1–0 on an early goal, the Maroons (4–4–2, 0–1 UAA) rarely threatened the ninth-ranked Eagles (10–0, 1–0), who controlled possession throughout the game and by the time the referee whistled full time, had added a commanding 5–1 victory to their unblemished record.
“It was really a disappointment all the way around,” head coach Scott Wiercinski said of his team’s performance. “Because our guys just didn’t come out and play with some energy and some passion that we really count on them for. When you’re playing against a team as good as Emory, unfortunately, they punish you for it.”
The rough day was made even rougher because it began so promisingly. In the first minute of play, the Maroons got the ball in to the left corner of Emory’s half, forcing the Eagles to clear it out of bounds. First-year midfielder Stanton Coville received the Chicago throw-in, beat an Emory defender and crossed the ball to the far post, where second-year forward Alex Clifford nodded it in.
“It was a good goal, and mostly because of the individual effort by Stan,” Wiercinski said.
Goals are especially precious against a defense as strong as Emory’s, which is giving up only 0.3 goals a game, the fewest in the UAA.
The Maroons’ lead was short-lived, as the Eagles took the kickoff and quickly got a throw well into Chicago territory. The ball was thrown in the Maroons’ box, where it bounced around in a scrum near the goal line until a dangerous play was called on Chicago, setting Emory up for an indirect kick five or six yards from the net.
Taking the kick almost as soon as the foul was called, the Eagles caught the Maroons off guard and got the ball to fourth-year Eric Laney, who put it away to tie the match.
“We fell asleep, and they played it in while we were kind of preparing for it,” Wiercinski said. “It was kind of a bizarre goal, but one that we definitely were asleep at the wheel for.”
The game settled down some after the two early goals, but Emory would remain solidly in control. The Eagles kept the ball on Chicago’s side of the field and outshot the Maroons 14–2 in the first half, although that statistic may be misleading.
“They had a lot of shots that were on the scoreboard, but none of them were really that dangerous,” Wiercinski said. “They were actually a lot more dangerous with some of their opportunities where they didn’t get credited for shots. We cleared a couple off the goal line, and they had a couple long throw-ins that I don’t think would have been credited as shots but were hairy moments for us.”
For all of their opportunities, the Eagles had difficulty capitalizing and the game remained tied-up until the 43rd minute, when second-year midfield Christopher Howie got around the right side of Chicago’s defense and centered the ball to first-year forward Ben Shlang in the box. Shlang was unmarked and made Chicago’s defense pay for overlooking him by putting the ball past first-year goalkeeper Chris Giusto.
Emory’s attack picked up where it left off after halftime, as fourth-year midfielder Marc Del Marmol picked up two goals in the first fifteen minutes to go along with his assist from the first half. Del Marmol has come on strong lately for the Eagles and is now the squad’s third-leading scorer, despite not playing in three of their first five games.
Forced to push forward in an attempt to erase the deficit, Chicago’s defense was stretched thin, and the Eagles took advantage one final time, when second-year midfielder Graham Dekeyser notched his first goal of the season in the 85th minute.
“We didn’t do a good job of balancing our risk with our reward,” Wiercinski said of Emory’s late goals.
Some of the Eagle’s dominance in the game can be attributed to their depth and experience. They started 10 fourth-years in Saturday’s game, and 26 different players made an appearance for Emory during the match.
“They have a lot of wily veterans,” Wiercinski said. “They know what it’s like to play UAA games, and they know how energy and emotion play a huge role, and they came out with a lot of energy and emotion, even after we scored on them.”
Things won’t get any easier for the Maroons going forward: tonight, they play Wheaton (8–2–1) under the lights at Stagg. The Thunder are winners of five straight and enter the game ranked 25th nationally.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for us,” Wiercinski said, “because we can’t stand around and lick our wounds and feel sorry for ourselves, because–and I told the team this after the game–nobody else is.”