“It was huge. It was absolutely huge.”
A visibly excited Doug Hess, head coach of the Drexel University men’s soccer team, was succinct in his response to a question about the importance of getting his offense on track before conference play began.
And it was huge. Compared to the beginning of the season, the last two games have been a veritable explosion on offense for the Dragons.
In just two games, the Dragons managed to score five times, a mark higher than the amount of goals, four, that they had scored through the first seven games of the season.
Against Fairleigh Dickinson University Sept. 27, the Dragons finally had a game break their way and showed the potential of a team coming off of two consecutive Colonial Athletic Association Championships.
The game seemed different from their early-season competitions from the kickoff. There was notably more energy and more pressure up top that would ultimately make the difference in this game and possibly the trajectory of the season as a whole.
Just 10 minutes into the contest, the Dragons were already on the board.
Aaron Thompson dribbled up the left side of the field and found a running John Grosh wide open in the box with a perfectly placed through-ball. Grosh passed up a decent look of his own in favor of a pass to the other side of the box, where freshman Tristan Thompson drilled the ball into the back of the net.
With a one-goal lead, the Dragons looked confident and poised.
They controlled the ball, and though they gave up a few decent chances to FDU, sophomore goalie Tyler Afflerbach and his defense refused to relent to the FDU attack.
With FDU flustered by their inability to score, the Dragons took it back to them at the end of the half.
A rebound off of a corner kick landed directly in front of senior Felipe Fagundes, who wound up and fired from outside of the box.
In soccer, sometimes things just break your way. It’s a fact of the game and a reality that players and coaches accept. In this case, things just broke the way of the Dragons offense.
Fagundes’ shot deflected off of a defender and to the ground, where it continued rolling directly into the path of a wide-open Jameson Detweiler, who easily finished from about six yards out.
From then on, the game was all Drexel. They held Fairleigh Dickinson to two shots in the second half and managed to notch another goal in the 70th minute to seal it for the Dragons.
Riding high off the big win, the Dragons hosted Seton Hall University at Vidas Field, hoping to get to .500 right before the start of conference play.
And they would accomplish that goal, but more than that, they would finally put it all together.
Less than 20 minutes into the game, the Dragons were on the board once again. Their offensive pressure overwhelmed Seton Hall, as they took over the box in the 16th minute and Michele Pataia gathered in a deflected shot and drilled it into the back of the net to give the Dragons a 1-0 lead.
And it wouldn’t take very long for the Dragons to add to their tally.
In the 29th minute, Grosh found a sliding Matthew DiDomenico wide open in the box, who easily finished to put the Dragons up by two.
Throughout the remainder of the game, the Dragons handled their opponent. The other team barely held possession and basically never threatened to bring the game closer. By the end of the game, the Dragons had almost doubled the shot count of Seton Hall and had required less saves in the game.
The Dragons absolutely dominated Seton Hall. There was no doubt to that fact, as they commanded respect from their future opponents in a true statement game.
Within the first 30 minutes of the game, it was evident that the Dragons would win it. They were impenetrable on defense and controlled possession unlike any other game this season so far. Before half time, they had gained a 2-0 lead and held on to it easily until the final buzzer sounded.
After the game, Pataia addressed how important this week was for the team as a whole.
“It was important for us to get a win and start our conference play on a positive note with a good mentality. These last two games were important for us because we got two wins, and we got the rhythm going.”
This week was possibly the most important of the season for the Dragons. It made the difference between a downtrodden team limping into conference play unsure of how to win games and score goals and a veteran team coming off of two consecutive CAA tournament championships hungry for more success.
Coach Hess summed up how the team feels going forward.
“We’ve found ways to win. We’ve been fortunate, it’s not like we haven’t given opportunities. By being able to sustain the game, it’s allowing our attacking players to find their form,” he said. “The beauty of this is that was our fifth clean sheet. If you can sustain games defensively, you’ll find moments. We find moments.”