The men’s soccer team remains undefeated in league play after defeating its second Ivy opponent, Columbia. Hosting the Lions (5-4-2 overall, 0-1-2 Ivy League), the Princeton side pulled ahead to a 2-1 victory off sophomore midfielder Brendan McSherry’s first goal of his college career in the 87th minute. The win puts the Tigers at 5-6-1 overall with a 2-0-1 league record.
Princeton snapped a two-game goalless streak, previously shutout by St. John’s 0-2 and drawing 0-0 with Brown after two overtime periods. This defeat comes for the Lions on the heels of a four-nil drubbing at the hands of No. 25 UConn.
Junior forward Cameron Porter — whose speed and skill down the wing led to a number of dangerous attacks — said before the game that the team has emphasized converting offensive chances.
“One of the big things we have to focus on is getting some goals,” he began. “It’s been two games where we’ve been shut out. So it’s really important that we get forward, get opportunities and actually finish them off.”
The Tigers were on the attack early, with junior defensive midfielder Myles McGinley taking four corner kicks for his team within 13 minutes. McGinley additionally proved an intimidating defensive force as he executed tackle after tackle.
A failed Princeton clear led to Columbia’s forward Will Stamatis intercepting a failed clear and beating senior keeper Seth MacMillian — who finished with three saves — to put the Lions on the board with 30 minutes remaining in the first half. Midfielder Louie Maldonado had crossed in the initial ball. Both players were a handful for the Princeton defense, with Stamatis winning header after header and Maldonado demonstrating consistent pace.
Behind at the half, Princeton came out looking for an equalizer. Chances came with two more corners. In the 58th minute, junior midfielder Julian Griggs made a cutting run into the Columbia box and was brought down by a Columbia defender, leading to a penalty. Freshman forward Thomas Sanner headed to the spot for the Tigers and coolly put it past the diving Columbia keeper to make it a 1-1 affair.
Sanner continued his high level of play, which has rendered him the league’s leading scorer. In addition to netting the penalty kick, he tallied seven shots with three on target and frequently held up possession, allowing his teammates to join the attack.
The winning goal came as overtime seemed inevitable. A shot by impact substitute Griggs was deflected into Porter whose shot was deflected further toward the right corner of the goal. McSherry managed to direct the loose ball into the back of the net.
Freshman defensive midfielder Brian Costa started and played the entire 90 minutes, anchoring the middle of the field. Seniors Billy McGuinness and Chris Benedict and sophomore Josh Miller held the back line behind him for the entirety of the contest.
“I think the biggest surprise has been the overall consistency that the team has developed coming into games,” Porter explained regarding their season thus far. “The ability to get the ball down and play how we have wanted to has become something we can look to in every game: for our center midfielders to hold the ball and distribute for us. And I think that’s something that we’ve come to expect and enjoy.”
In recognition of its 20th anniversary, the 1993 Princeton men’s team — the best performing side in the program’s history and the last Ivy League team to reach the NCAA Final Four — was recognized at halftime. Among these players stood Major League Soccer veteran Jesse Marsch ’93 who returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach this year.
Princeton managed 19 shots with six shots on goal to its opponent’s six shots with four on target. Additionally, the Tigers took 10 corners with the other side only earning one.
The team travels to Cambridge, Mass., next Saturday to take on the Harvard Crimson (3-6-2, 2-1) at 4 p.m.