Last Saturday, Sept. 27, an unusually warm fall afternoon turned into one of the most dramatic and nail-biting games of the men’s soccer season thus far. Playing through 80-degree weather, Wesleyan and Hamilton took a 1-1 tie into double overtime before Captain Ben Bratt ’15 received a golden opportunity in the last play of the match to put the Continentals away for good.
“We had a couple good chances on goal in the second overtime,” Bratt wrote in an email to The Argus, “but [we] couldn’t find the back of the net. Then, with under a minute left, Matt Lynch [’15] chased down a ball that was approaching Hamilton’s goalie and one of the Hamilton defenders fouled Matt and knocked him over in the penalty box.”
Granted a penalty kick in the box, a pumped-up Wes team prepared for what it hoped would be the game-winning goal.
“Immediately, when we got the PK, we celebrated even though we hadn’t scored yet,” said Adam Cowie-Haskell ’18. “I thought we had to calm down a little bit, because that’s a lot of pressure. I can’t believe the amount of pressure that must have been on [Bratt’s] shoulders there. It was very exciting, very nerve-wracking.”
Although he is a back, Bratt is generally the go-to penalty taker for the team. With one minute left, he was also the deciding factor in which column the next tally mark would go in Wes’ record.
“Ever since last year I have pretty much been the designated penalty kick taker so I stepped up to take the penalty kick,” Bratt wrote. “I’ll admit I was a little nervous but I have been taking the penalty kicks for my teams ever since I started playing and we work on penalties in practice, so I felt confident that I was going to score. I knew there was a lot at stake with the [PK] and I didn’t want to disappoint my teammates, coaches, and all of the fans who came to watch, so I definitely felt some pressure.”
Firing into the top-left corner of the Hamilton goalie’s net, Bratt didn’t disappoint as he scored the game-winning goal, helping advance Wesleyan’s overall record to 4-2-2 and 3-1 in NESCAC play.
“I was relieved that I scored and couldn’t wait to celebrate with my teammates,” Bratt wrote.
Though the Cardinals took the game home in the end, it didn’t begin so easily. From the 11th minute of the game, Wes was down 1-0 after a Continental forward capitalized on a cross into the box with a header that hit the back of the net.
“Going down one goal very early—I remember when Hamilton scored its goal, and it was really frustrating,” said Omar Bravo ’15. “But I think it fired us up more than it did anything else. That was something that was part of our team—we went down one-nil to Bates also and came out with the win. It’s good to see this type of mentality of ‘we will not lose’ in our team.”
Indeed, the Cardinals wasted no time in replying to Hamilton’s goal with force. In the 15th minute, a pass from Brandon Sousa ’16 set up Cowie-Haskell to score the game-tying goal.
“I think we won it in the midfield,” Cowie-Haskell said. “Sousa was able to get on it around the [penalty] box. He took some guys on, dribbled to the end line in the 18, and [did] a shot-pass. I was in the right place and put it away.”
With 28 total shots and 13 of them on goal, Wesleyan yet again displayed its ability to produce offensive opportunities while keeping its opponents at bay. Hamilton got off only 13 total shots, of which five were on target.
“During the past three games we have outshot our opponents and have gotten a lot more offensive chances,” Bratt wrote. “I would attribute our increase in offensive production to our focus on varying our attack and making more use of our talented wingers. Our midfielders and forwards have been working hard offensively to create more and more chances and we have been getting our outside backs involved more in the attack as well.”
While opportunities abound, the offensive third is looking to score more than it has thus far.
“It’s just a matter of breaking the habit of not scoring,” Bravo said. “Once we get over that hump, once there’s a game where we end up scoring three goals—if that happens—I think then it’ll start working out for us. Because we’re always, always an inch away from scoring. Against Tufts, I remember I played a ball to Cowie-Haskell; he hit it past the goalkeeper and it was rolling inside and then it got cleared off the line by a defender tracking back. Against Wheaton, Captain Danny Issroff [’15] hit the crossbar. We get a lot of chances, we just need some fine-tuning, to practice it a little more, get a little more confidence.”
The Cardinals are hoping to keep this offensive roll going as they head to Colby for their next game on Saturday, Oct. 4.
Cardinals throughout the roster are stepping up to advance Wesleyan in the standings and to contribute to a dynamic team. Cowie-Haskell, who has scored two goals for the team and received the NESCAC Player of the Week award earlier in the month, hopes to improve going forward.
“I’m getting into a lot of good positions and creating a lot of scoring chances, but for the amount I’m creating compared to the amount I’m scoring, I should do better,” Cowie-Haskell said. “For example, in the Hamilton game, I had several breakaways or close shots that I should have put away.”
Bratt, who is considered the heart of the defense, spoke highly of his teammates in the Cardinal defense that has allowed only five goals in this first half of the season.
“Ben Toulotte [’16] and I, the two centerbacks, are responsible for communicating with the rest of the team to ensure we have the right defensive shape throughout the game,” Bratt wrote. “So far, our defense has been pretty reliable and done a good job keeping the ball out of our goal. There have been many key contributors to our defense so far this season. Toulotte and Danny Rubenstein [’17] are solid as always, and Taylor Chin [’18] and Nick Jackson [’18] have stepped up at outside back to fill in for injured Spencer Tanaka [’15]. And goalie Emmett McConnell [’15] has been a stud in goal for us again this season.”