With everything on the line following last weekend’s overtime defeat at Dartmouth, the Tigers entered a match on Saturday against Brown knowing that a win was imperative if their Ivy League hopes were to remain alive.
A midweek match-up against Villanova ahead of the pivotal game against Brown offered some promising signs of improvement for the Tigers. An early goal from sophomore defender Benjamin Issroff off the rebound of a first-minute indirect free kick set the match up favorably for the men’s team. The Tigers proceeded to ward off a slew of attacks from Villanova before freshman center-mid Kevin O’Toole put the nail in the coffin with a stunning curling effort in the 72nd minute.
But despite the positive result, other elements of the Tigers’ game reflected some of the same trends the team has been looking to improve upon throughout the season. Organized in a 3-5-2 formation with a set-up to counterattack, the team struggled on occasion to exploit spaces up top and to find leaders to carry these attacking efforts forward. Defensive instability on the wings remained another worrying theme, as the vast majority of Villanova efforts originated from out wide.
The home win was surely a confidence-booster, with the Tigers looking to capitalize on their second clean sheet of the season and build momentum. Brown had suffered similar misfortunes to Princeton in their Ivy League opener against Columbia, recording a 3-0 loss. Ultimately, Princeton entered the match with a 2-5-2 overall record to Brown’s 5-2-1.
An early sequence of corner kicks for the Bears set the tone for the remainder of the match. Brown would continue to pressure the Princeton goal, finishing the game with a 11-2 corner-count advantage. Brown's efforts went high and wide before Issroff forced a save off rival goalkeeper Joey Cipicchio after some nice ball control inside the box. Freshman forward Gabriel Paniagua’s attempt from outside the area would close out Princeton’s attacking chances for the half. Sophomore Jacob Schachner later went on to make the first of his four saves in what turned out to be an impressive performance from the Princeton goalkeeper.
But the early stages of the second period would see Brown’s Quinn English get on the end of a well-placed cross from Daniel Schiller, making it 1-0 for the Bears. An effort from senior defender James Reiner would later sizzle just left of the Brown post, while at the other end, some heroic goalkeeping from Schachner denied multiple solid efforts to double the margin.
As the match went on, the long-range throwing ability of English would continue to pose threats to the Tigers’ goal, while a high press provided the Bears with more opportunities to exploit holes up top. None of the efforts on both sides would yield a goal, however, as the game finished at 1-0.
The result adds to Princeton’s streak of tight encounters so far this year, with the men’s squad having lost six games by a one-goal margin this season. O’Toole noted, “I think our main weakness is that we aren’t able to kill the game off early. We’ve struggled to put our really good chances away, which has kept our opponents in games longer than we would like. This can be combated by making the most of our goalscoring opportunities.”
The men’s team will be looking to grab a victory against St. John’s on Tuesday at 7 p.m. before quelling high-flying Columbia — off the back of a 3-0 win against Penn — at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Both matches will take place at Princeton’s Myslik Field.