Since Doug Hess became head coach of the Drexel men’s soccer team in 2010, the success of each season has been based on solid goalkeeping. For the past two years the goalkeeper has been junior Pentti Pussinen, but now Tim Washam is getting his shot.
Washam, a senior from Warminster, Pa., took over for Pussinen after a season-opening 3-2 loss to La Salle University and has run with the opportunity. Since then, Washam has led Drexel to a 6-2-1 record with a 1.06 goals-against average and a .778 save percentage.
“My confidence and decision-making are what set this year apart from the others,” Washam said. “For the last four years I have worked hard in practice, and this year I finally made the most of this opportunity.”
Washam posted his third shutout of the season Sept. 28 in a 3-0 victory against The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. The win was the Dragons’ third in a row and boosted the school’s all-time record against W&M to 2-11.
“We have had poor performances in the past when it came to conference play,” Washam said. “This year we are focused on changing that history.”
In a very even first half, Drexel converted its first opportunity off a free kick from sophomore forward Guido Pena. Pena tapped the ball to senior midfielder Brandon Zeller, who set up a shot for Pena, who then smashed it with his left foot for a 1-0 lead in the 31st minute.
The Tribe dominated the second half in terms of pressure but not on the scoreboard. W&M attempted 16 shots, but the Dragons’ defense only allowed four of them to get to Washam, who was up to the task each time.
Meanwhile, Drexel earned its second goal on another free kick from sophomore midfielder John Grosh. After coming into the match as a substitute in the 39th minute, Grosh took a free kick in the 55th minute and launched a right-footed kick into the back of the net from 25 yards out.
As the end of the match neared, the Dragons’ defense continued to block a number of W&M’s attempted shots, which allowed junior midfielder Nathan Page to add a goal of his own. Page scored the third goal of the game, his third on the season, when he dribbled through the Tribe defense and beat the goalkeeper in the 88th minute.
In the 3-0 win, Washam completely outperformed his counterpart, sophomore goalkeeper Bennett Jones of W&M, as he has done all season. While Jones allowed three goals on four shots on goal, Washam made six saves to carry Drexel to the shutout victory.
“I have always had the desire to play my best in the games,” Washam said. “It is very important for me to be consistent, and keeping a level head is always important whether we are playing well or not.”
For his solid performance, Washam was named Soccer Six Co-Defender of the Week. In the team’s wins against W&M and the University of Pennsylvania, Washam made 13 saves on 14 shots on goal and earned two wins.
Unfortunately, the Dragons could not keep their streak going when they returned home Oct. 4 against Northeastern University, falling to the Huskies by a score of 2-1 at Vidas Field.
Although Drexel had been 3-0 at home, the team came out of the gate very defensive and reserved from attack. The Dragons had just one shot on goal in the first half, compared to eight shots by NU, three of which were on goal.
“This is our home field; we know every bounce on this field, and we know every angle on this field,” Hess said. “We need to be the aggressor, and we weren’t in the first half; Northeastern was.”
Washam kept the game scoreless through 49 minutes, but the Huskies opened the scoring on a free kick five minutes into the second half. Freshman forward Terrence Carter sent a high ball into the box that was headed in by sophomore defender Simon Cox for a 1-0 lead in the 50th minute.
Following the goal, Drexel seemed to pick up the pressure a bit, but crucial turnovers allowed NU to keep possession early in the second half. On a one-man rush in the 73rd minute, senior forward Don Anding cut into the middle of the field and unleashed a rifle shot to the top-right corner that an outstretched Washam could not quite reach.
“Mentally it looked like we didn’t really decide we wanted to win until the ball went in our net,” Hess said. “After that, we threw numbers forward and they had to deal with us.”
Hess made three substitutions in the 76th minute to provide a spark, and that they did. For the final 15 minutes of the match, the Dragons held control of the ball and got a number of opportunities at the net, which was truer to form of the Drexel team we had seen all season.
Late in the match, one of those substitutes, sophomore midfielder Matheus Goncalves, got control of the ball inside the box and kept his composure. He sent a beautiful short pass to sophomore forward Fabio Machado, who rocketed the ball into the top-left corner with just 28 seconds remaining.
But there just was not enough time left for the Dragons to score the equalizer, as time expired with the ball in the Huskies defensive zone.
“It’s college soccer — we didn’t come our best, and we lost,” Hess said. “For us right now we have to have a short-term memory and take what we need to learn out of this. We know we’re better than what we showed, and we need to move on.”
Drexel’s next match will be at home against the Colonial Athletic Association opponent University of North Carolina Wilmington. The Dragons will look to defeat the Seahawks, against whom they have lost four straight games, including three consecutive shutouts. The match will take place at Vidas Field at 4 p.m. Oct. 6.