Men’s soccer on three-game win streak after victory over Dominican

| Senior Sports Editor

By the time sophomore Aidan Ryan sent a shot soaring toward the goal from 30 yards out, the Washington University men’s soccer team had already pulled away from Dominican University. When the ball ricocheted around the upper right corner of the goal, out of reach of the Stars’ goalkeeper, the Bears had put the game away for good, extending their lead to 3-0 and their win streak to three games.

Wash. U. has not lost since an Aug. 30 opening day nail-biter and has improved to 3-1-1 on the season with Friday night’s 3-0 win. After a scoreless start to the game, the Bears opened the scoring in the 37th minute when sophomore Alex Smith found himself unguarded deep in Dominican territory. Smith paused at the near sideline, lining up a far cross as fellow sophomore Nolan Wolf hovered in front of the goal. Smith pulled his right leg back and delivered a sharp cross that sailed over the heads of three Stars defenders before Wolf stepped in front of a fourth and knocked a clean header past a diving goalkeeper into the left side of the net.

Wolf had checked into the game just a minute and a half earlier, and the goal was the first of his career. With the ball rattling around the back of the goal, he led a jovial victory lap back toward the Wash. U. bench as teammates followed quickly behind.

The sophomores did not let up. Just two minutes after his cross set up Wolf’s header, Smith secured a goal of his own to put the Bears up 2-0. Dominican failed to clear the ball after intercepting an attempted cross, and Smith stole the ball from a crowd of Stars’ defenders before launching a left-footed grounder out of reach of the laid-out Dominican goalkeeper. Like Wolf, Smith had never before scored, and hugs abounded in the seconds after the ball found the back of the net.

Matthew Friedman | Student Life

Freshman midfielder Shiv Lamba scans the field for an opening against Dominican University Friday night on Francis Field.

“Those goals took some of the pressure off, and it was a good team win,” head coach Joe Clarke said after the game Friday. He also focused on how Wash. U.’s defense kept Dominican scoreless throughout, saying that the team made adjustments after the first 20 minutes to stop the game from being an end-to-end affair and encourage the Bears to take more control of the ball. After senior defender Isaac Plutzer made a pointed observation regarding the Dominican set-up, the Bears changed their defensive structure, altering the arrangement between the midfielders and the backline while also pushing a midfielder closer to the center of the field.

“Once [those changes] happened, things worked out better for us,” Clarke said. “We have good goalkeeping and the players are playing hard–that’s a good team. We’ve never beaten Dominican 3-0 and that’s a good win for us.”

After holding the Stars to just five shots in the first half, the Wash. U. defense cracked down in the second, allowing only a single shot that was called back because of an offsides call against Dominican. “We were fortunate on that [play], that they were offsides, because that’s probably a pretty close call,” Clarke said. “They were able to snatch a goal but they didn’t get to keep it. That would have made this game a lot different.”

Since the goal did not count, the Bears kept the game scoreless for their third shutout of the season. Sophomore goalkeeper Matt Martin had to make just one save all night long, and the Bears limited the Stars to just one corner kick overall.

Ryan’s goal, which came in the 89th minute, served simply as the cherry on top for the Bears. “He practices that all the time,” Clarke laughed when asked about the wide-open shot from far out. “He’s always hitting free kicks and he really can bend a ball in the upper corner, so I’m really happy for him to get that. It certainly ended the game for us.”

After two straight Friday evening home games, the Bears find themselves on the road this week, with a trip to Illinois to take on Wheaton College on Friday. They will look to keep their focus and drive going forward. “I think you’ve always got to keep your feet on the ground. Every time you win a game, you begin, possibly, to become a little bit more complacent and you feel less urgency,” Clarke said. “You have the chance of becoming where you don’t quite work as hard or you think you’re better than you are, and that’s the biggest danger in anything.”

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.