“Once we’re back on track, we’ll be back to competing like we have the last few years.”
Sophomore goalie Tyler Afflerbach was optimistic about the Drexel University men’s soccer team’s future despite how rough the beginning to conference play was. After dropping their first two Colonial Athletic Association matchups by a combined score of 4-1, the talented young goalie wouldn’t have been at fault if he swayed towards a negative outlook for the season. But he remained optimistic — and he wasn’t wrong.
The Dragons needed some time to get back on track, and conference play has always been tough, but they seem to at least have recovered from the terrible 0-2 CAA record they came into the week with.
Looking to return to winning form, the Dragons hosted the College of Charleston Oct. 11 at Vidas Field.
The game didn’t look good from the get-go for the Dragons, as they allowed the Cougars to get on the board first courtesy of an Adan Noel goal following a Drexel defensive lapse.
The big difference between this game and earlier games for the Dragons was in the fact that they were able to strongly respond to a setback.
Less than 10 minutes later, senior John Grosh found fellow senior Robert Liberatore open off of a corner and Liberatore tapped the ball in to even the score at 1-1 before the end of the first half.
For a team that has been plagued by a lack of scoring, being able to quickly respond to an early deficit is a must. It allows them to settle in and continue to play their game the way they want to, rather than forcing the issue on the offensive end while trying to equalize the game.
And that paid off for the Dragons early in the second half. In the 53rd minute, John Grosh made his presence felt once again. Sander Yu made a long pass in and John Grosh connected with it, draining the go-ahead goal.
The Dragons were riding high over that, and it threatened to cost them points.
By the 75th minute the Dragons seemed to settle into a more defensive formation, altering their balanced game in favor of trying to protect the lead they had earned. This sounds like a good idea, but often doing that allows a good team like Charleston to pressure until the defense is forced to break.
And the break was crushing.
The Dragons were less than 30 seconds from earning their first conference win when Adan Noel brought it even at 2-2 following a corner kick.
While upsetting, this game could have gotten much worse had the Dragons not kept their composure. But they kept their composure, holding up on the defensive end to earn one point for the tie, though they were crushingly close to a win and three points.
Afflerbach summarized his feelings on their performance thus far in conference play, once again taking an optimistic view on the whole situation.
“We’ve played well in pretty much every game, though we have had a few breakdowns defensively. We’ve all made a few mistakes here and there, but as a whole we’ve played well as a defensive unit and a team but we’re always working hard towards getting a little better.”
The Dragons would make up for the last minute disappointment in their Oct. 15 matchup against James Madison University.
Like before, the Dragons would fall behind early.
In the 64th minute, an unlucky rebound off of a blocked shot fell to Callum Hill, who rocketed it into the back of the net from 30 yards out.
Once again, the Dragons would respond quickly.
Inside of the box in the 68th minute, Guido Pena made a close cross to Adam Arana, who headed it goal wards to even the game at one.
From that point on, the game was virtually all Drexel. They tallied 10 shots in the second half alone, though they were only able to net one goal in regulation.
In overtime, they kept battling and it paid off in the 101st minute.
Erik Alexandersson drilled a loose ball from 15 yards out into the top corner of the net, ending the game and giving the Dragons their first conference win and a pivotal three points, giving them four total in the conference.
As of right now, the Dragons sit near the bottom of the CAA standings with four points, but only three points shy of newcomer Elon University.
And whom do the Dragons play this weekend? Elon University.
With a victory in that game, the Dragons can erase a lot of their woes from this season and once again see themselves near the top of the standings in a difficult conference.
The Dragons play at Elon on Oct. 18, looking to climb the leaderboard of the CAA.