Williams came out of the gate with far more energy than the men’s soccer team had seen all season, and the Cardinals fell 2-0 at home to their Little Three rival in their worst NESCAC loss of the year. Trying to catch Wesleyan on its heels after many teams have tried to slow down play against the quick Cardinals, the Ephs saw their opponents step up to match their pace of play, but not their production.
Two minutes into the game, a strike from Williams’ Mohammed Rashid forced Wesleyan keeper Emmett McConnell ’15 to make a gorgeous save, leaping high and to his left to catch the well-struck ball. Wesleyan looked to strike back 15 minutes into the game, when Omar Bravo ’15 put an arching corner kick just inside Williams’ six. Williams keeper Peter Morrell stayed back in net, and a Wesleyan head found the ball, but the shot sailed high above the goal, preserving the scoreless tie.
Wesleyan had many missed opportunities on Saturday morning, most notably four shots when a shooter had space but sent the ball flying over the crossbar. Of Wesleyan’s nine shots in the first half, only two were on goal.
The Cards had another great opportunity with 15 minutes remaining in the half, when they were awarded a free kick from 19 yards out. Brandon Sousa ’16 lined up to blast one on net, but the shot ended up being a weak grounder that Morrell fielded easily, neutralizing the threat.
The scoring finally got underway in the 41st minute, when their outside midfielder Malcolm Moutenot carved a low cross through a crowd of defenders. Speedy Williams attacker Rashid beat his tracking defender outright, cutting through the middle of the box and going into a foot-first slide at the ball. McConnell, who was caught on the left side of the goal defending the pass, had no chance at the shot. Williams took its 1-0 lead into halftime.
Wesleyan had a wonderful opportunity to tie the game early in the second half. McConnell’s long punt to midfield hit Charlie Gruner ’17, who turned on the jets and sliced through the Williams defensemen. As Morrell came to meet Gruner, the freshman poked a pass across to incoming striker Bravo. Bravo had the goalie beat and an open net in front of him, but he misplayed the ball, which trickled wide.
Ten minutes later, the Birds got two corner kicks and the chance to tie the game once again. The first, taken by Max Jones ’16, found the head of Chris Kafina ’16, but Kafina couldn’t redirect accurately and did not find the net. Two minutes later, Jones put another promising corner onto the net, but Morrell grabbed the ball before anything could come of it.
The game had definite potential to get testy after Williams left back Chris Conder received his second yellow card in the 65th minute. Conder was on his back and threw his feet up in the air to kick a Wesleyan midfielder standing above him. His first caution came in the 22nd minute when he went into the Wesleyan box out of control and barreled into McConnell. Conder was ejected from the game and will be awarded a one-game suspension for his actions.
Playing a man up after Conder was sent off, Wesleyan was still unable to generate any concrete opportunities as they looked to even the game with a score. Miscommunication plagued the Cards when they had the 11-on-10 advantage.
In the 81st minute, Sousa was stripped of the ball on a standing tackle from Eph midfielder Geoff Danilick, who swept the ball out to Moutenot, who once again split the defense with his pass to Rashid. McConnell decided his best bet was to attack the ball on the 18. Rashid had a beautiful touch under the outstretched goalie glove, beating the keeper in a footrace to the ball. Rashid finished on the open net to put Williams up 2-0.
McConnell was touched up for multiple goals for the first time in his varsity career, though he managed to save 8 of Williams’ 10 shots on net. Morrell earned his fifth shutout of the season at Wesleyan’s expense, saving all three of the Cardinals’ shots.
Williams improved to 4-2-0 in the NESCAC, 7-2-0 overall, while Wesleyan fell to 4-2-0 in the ’Cac, 5-4-1 overall. The loss dropped Wesleyan into a momentary tie for second place in the conference with the Ephs and Tufts. However, Williams was shut out the following day at Bowdoin and fell back into third place. Wesleyan now has sole possession of second place after Tufts also suffered a loss last weekend.
The top two teams in the conference will face off next Saturday, Oct. 19 as Wesleyan travels to undefeated Amherst, the number three team in the country. A win at Amherst is Wesleyan’s only chance to stay in the running for a Little Three championship.