As the Drexel men’s soccer team took the bus five hours north to Hempstead, New York on Friday, Oct. 21, they understood that the forthcoming match was the most important ninety minutes of the season. The Dragons came into the game in second place in the CAA, and in their last conference game of the season they would be taking on Hofstra University, the third place team who could overtake them with a win. If the Dragons won, they could gain home field advantage throughout the CAA playoffs, but with a loss they would no longer control this fate.
From the start of the match, the tension between the two teams was palpable. The game got off to a physical start, with both teams accumulating fouls in a hurry. Throughout this season, the Dragons have predicated their offensive success off of an attack that possesses the ball and breaks down defenses through an almost tiki-taka style of offense with lots of quick passes and fluid movement surrounding the ball. Drexel tried to implement this same strategy throughout the match, however, they just seemed unable to successfully build up and get the final pass needed to score. The first 25 minutes of the match were largely uneventful, with the few chances belonging to Drexel. This rapidly changed when Hofstra’s Eliot Goldthorp received the ball in an unassuming area of the pitch and proceeded to take on multiple Drexel defenders before launching a dangerous shot on net from about 19 yards out, which Drexel goalkeeper Alessandro Capogna was forced to deflect out of bounds for a corner kick. This moment of offensive brilliance from Goldthorp created the most dangerous moment in the game to that point, and set the Pride up for a crucial set piece. The corner that followed was hardly dangerous and a Drexel defender easily headed the ball out of the 18-yard box, however, Goldthrop was the first to the cleared ball and quickly shot it towards the net, where the unorganized Drexel backline had left forward Ryan Carmichael unmarked. Carmichael calmly turned and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner of the net, giving Hofstra a 1-0 lead that they would not relinquish.
As the game proceeded, Drexel continued being the more dangerous team, but the Dragons just always seemed to be one pass short of a successful play. In the final 20 minutes, Drexel had three opportunities from within the six-yard box that likely should have been goals, but each of them narrowly missed the net. Until the final seconds, Drexel applied pressure on the Pride, but it was clear that Hofstra was going to be parking the bus as much as possible and were intent on muddying up the playing field, something that severely impeded the technical playing style of Drexel.
With the loss, the Dragons fell swiftly from second to fourth place in the CAA. This places them in a position to be the away team for the CAA playoffs, something that will negate one of the Dragons’ biggest advantages: playing at Vidas Field. Vidas is a very difficult field to play on due to it being a very old and hard pitch, and opponents have struggled all season to play with any technicality there. While the Dragons are still in the midst of an unexpectedly successful season, it will be hard to understate the frustration of how such a quality team had their destiny in their own hands and were unable to secure home field advantage at Vidas Field.
The Dragons finish out their season at home against Fairleigh Dickinson University on Wednesday at 5 p.m for Senior Night before they head into the CAA Playoffs beginning on Nov. 2.