The Drexel University Dragons’ game Sept. 13 played out much like the rest of the young men’s soccer season has: evenly played and fought hard until the end.
The Dragons faced off against the Saint Joseph’s University Hawks in the fifth game of their season, looking to make the leap past a .500 record. This season, the team has played three games with one goal, winning two of them, including a dramatic overtime victory over Temple University to start their season.
It appears as if the team has a flair for the dramatic and this trend continued against a strong St. Joe’s side.
They played defensively throughout the first half, tallying only one shot while allowing six St. Joe’s attempts, but holding off the Hawks’ offense, keeping the game tied at 0 after 45 minutes.
St. Joe’s domination ended abruptly at half. As the Dragons got their attack to work more offensively, it cost them. The added offensive force caused them to leak a little on the defensive end, giving the Hawks 11 shots in the second half.
Interestingly enough, of the 17 shots by St. Joe’s in regulation, only four hit their target — all which were stopped by Drexel’s goalie, sophomore Tyler Afflerbach. So far this year, Afflerbach has been very good, despite the team’s middling record.
In three of the five games so far, Afflerbach has held the opposing team to zero goals and has been fairly dominant at the net for the Dragons. They haven’t been very consistent or strong on the defensive end, but his excellent play has kept them in games that they possibly could have lost with weaker performances from their goaltender.
Throughout the second half of the game, the teams exchanged shots and chances, but neither side could break the plane and get that elusive goal, forcing the game into overtime.
During overtime, both teams looked weary and were unable to make any real moves toward goal, and after two periods of overtime, the score remained 0-0. The game ended as a bitterly fought tie.
While the result might have been a bit disappointing, it was important for Drexel to end their two-game losing skid with at least a semipositive result heading into the TLC Plumbing and Utility Invitational beginning Sept. 19, where they can get themselves back on track in games that don’t matter much in the grand scheme of the season.
The road could be quite rocky to win the Colonial Athletic Association title, as the field is packed with impressive teams that seem difficult to usurp. Currently, Drexel is ranked fifth of the nine teams, a game behind James Madison University and way behind the conference-leading University of Delaware, who are currently undefeated at 6-0-0.
With a 2-2-1 record, the Dragons will have an uphill battle to catch Delaware, but it should be doable if they can strengthen their defense and manage to score some more goals.
They look poised to do so, though, as the offensive unit, led by senior midfielders Michele Pataia and John Grosh, has put up a decent showing so far, getting plenty of chances. The biggest problem on the offensive side of the ball seems to be finishing, where they seem unable to capitalize consistently when they have the chances.
A lot of finishing comes down to luck, and that can turn either way for the Dragons. With a couple of better finishes, this team could have defeated Loyola University Maryland and St. Joe’s, which would have put them among the top CAA teams.
On the other side of the ball, the sheer amount of opportunities this veteran defensive unit allows is concerning. Opponents average 11.4 shots per game against the Dragons, which is obviously not conducive to winning many games and being competitive in a strong conference like the CAA.
With that said, it isn’t all bad.
The team is still 2-2-1 on the year and there are over 10 games remaining. With the strong senior leadership on the team, anything can happen. This is a team one year removed from an NCAA tournament berth where they toppled the University of Delaware in the first round of the CAA Tournament. Many of the players from that run remain on the team and are used to and expect success on the field.
Another promising note for the rest of the season: the Dragons don’t get penalized. They’re a controlled, mature team that’s focused on winning over everything, and as a result, they’ve only gotten two cards in their first five games while their opponents have accrued eight.
Even though they’re middling in the conference, the Dragons can really only go up from here and will have plenty of games to bridge the gap between them and their in-conference competition.
The Dragons play in New Mexico next at the TLC Plumbling Utility Invitational Sept. 19.