Early in the season, Drexel University men’s soccer head coach Doug Hess summarized the game he loves and knows all too well in one sentence.
“Soccer, in general, rides on a knife’s edge.”
He’s correct, and soccer, more so than most sports, often comes down to a few breaks here and there. That’s what makes the game so exciting as a player or fan, but also what can make it so crushing.
The breaks just haven’t been there for the Dragons this year, and their record shows it. This week, they were outscored 4-1 combined in two conference losses, but the score doesn’t tell the true story.
The Dragons stood firmly in both of those games with a chance to escape with points and further their position in the conference standings, but they fell short. Call it luck, call it tough opposition, call it inexperience; whatever it is, it’s bad. And it could very easily keep them out of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, a place where they’ve thrived the last couple of years.
The Dragons traveled to Elon University Oct. 18 in an attempt to gain ground in a tight conference race. A victory would have pulled them into the top half of the conference and quite possibly turned around the season for the ailing Dragons, but they fell short.
In the game, the Dragons were fairly outmatched. They gave up two goals in the first 42 minutes of play and just weren’t able to get on the board, which has been a huge problem for the team this year.
And their lack of scoring wasn’t a result of a lack of effort. The Dragons tallied double digit shots in the game and Elon actually required more saves than the Dragons in the game. The biggest issue for the team is has been, and quite possibly will continue to be, finishing scoring chances.
They simply haven’t been able to do it this year, even when they get decent looks at the net. They’re averaging 10.4 shots per game this season, but have only been able to score a meager 0.94 goals per game. That’s obviously not a recipe for success.
It is important to note that Elon is a very talented team, good enough to be in second place in the conference this season and currently on a four-game win streak.
Maybe the Dragons just ran into a good team right as they were hitting their stride?
It’s possible, but the following game against conference-leading Hofstra University might have been the finishing blow to a shaky season.
Again, the Dragons got their chances on the offensive end.
In the first half alone, they had 10 shots and eight corner kicks to the Pride’s five and zero, respectively.
And the outcome? A halftime 1-1 draw.
Soccer does ride on a knife’s edge.
The Dragons gave up a goal in the 36th minute to Maid Memic off a pass from Joseph Holland, and they were down, despite their dominance in the half.
In fact, to even get a goal, the Dragons required a penalty kick. In the 43rd minute, John Grosh finished the penalty kick to tie the game right before half, and the game went into the halftime tied 1-1.
From there, it was all Hofstra. They turned the tables on the Dragons, taking 10 shots to the Dragons’ one in the second half.
But the difference in the game wasn’t just a goal, and it couldn’t have been any more debilitating for the already ailing Dragons.
In the 83rd minute, a Dragons penalty gave Memic the chance to give Hofstra the late lead on a penalty kick of his very own.
As it has gone for the Dragons for most of the season, Memic drained the penalty kick and the Dragons spoiled a chance to get at least one point and advance their conference position.
Over the two games — and the season, in fact — the Dragons had plenty of opportunities, but the story of the year has been how they’ve teetered on the knife’s edge and more often than not it has resulted in losses for them.
This isn’t the end of the season for the Dragons, as they have two more crucial CAA games coming up against the University of Delaware and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington that are basically must-wins.
They have to climb into the Top 6 six in the conference before the tournament starts and they’re currently sitting in eighth place out of nine teams. That sounds bleak, but they’re only three points away — the equivalent of one win-back of James Madison University and The College of William & Mary, who are tied for sixth place.
With a single win and a couple of fortuitous losses from other CAA teams, this squad could end up in the tournament fighting for a spot in the NCAA tournament, a spot that they’ve earned the last two years and hope to earn again.
The Dragons kick off that journey at Vidas Field Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.