Following the first home win of the season against Loyola Maryland (3–3–2, 1–1–0 Patriot) on Tuesday, the Princeton men’s soccer team (3–2–1, 0–0 Ivy) continued their dominance with a clean sweep of 3–0 over Rider (1–5–1, 0–0 MAAC) at Sherrerd Field on Friday night. Sophomore midfielder James Wangsness gave the Tigers a head start just two minutes into the game, and senior midfielder and captain Ryan Clare took over the game in the second half with a pair of stunning goals, securing Princeton’s winning streak with his first career brace.
The Tigers found their attack rhythm right from the beginning. After two shots were denied by Rider goalkeeper Guillaume Veinante, a real chance came to the Tigers at 02:19 when Wangsness caught a Rider-clearing ball at the top of the box. Uncovered by the Rider defenders, Wangsness produced instant control and a curved right-foot finish which gave Veinante no chance.
The Tigers kept their high pressure in the second half through fast counterattacks and empty spaces on the wings. Their determination paid off at 53:42, when Clare knocked senior midfielder Mateo Godoy’s measured chip from the left with a diving header.
The brilliant goal locked down Princeton’s leading position but marked only the start of Clare’s amazing performance. Just seven minutes later, as junior defender Whit Gamblin’s close-range shot off a Tiger corner was blocked by a Rider defender, it was Clare again, who tapped the rebound into the bottom corner with a sliding kick. The goal gave Princeton a 3–0 lead and marked Clare’s first career brace.
“It was great to see our team this week not only get two wins but also our first two clean sheets,“ Clare wrote to The Daily Princetonian. “In my time here, the seasons that our team has been successful have started with us being sound defensively and not giving up many goals. We came into this week with the mindset that it is everyone’s job — not just the defenders — to win the ball back and keep the opponent out of our half.”
“I think that the pressure we can put on teams higher up the field makes us difficult to play through and often leads to some of our best chances,“ Clare continued. “We want to bring this aggressive mentality into this massive week of games. We have Saint John’s coming up on Tuesday who beat us twice last year and so we are really excited at the opportunity to get revenge on them. After that, we start Ivy League play with an away game against Dartmouth next Saturday. We hope to build off of the success we had this week and come in just as hungry for these two big games.”
The clearest chance for Rider came at 72:14, as a Rider winger earned them a free kick at the left top of the box. The shot was saved off the line by the sophomore goalkeeper William Watson, who later shut down Rider’s second-time-attack with a clean catch. The 3–0 win also recorded Watson’s first shutout of his career.
“Clean sheets are very hard to come by in college soccer,“ Watson wrote to the ‘Prince.’ “[I’m] [g]lad we were able to get two shutouts in a row for the home crowd. Defensively, it required constant communication between everyone on the back line. Rider had multiple playmakers that we knew we would have to shut down, so as a collective defense we made it our prerogative to give them no clean opportunities.”
“Even though we have Dartmouth coming up this Saturday we are still focused on the next game ahead, which is Tuesday against St. Johns — [the] team that knocked us out of the NCAA tournament last year,“ Watson added. “As a team, we would like to give up less fouls, especially in dangerous areas, and continue to create more scoring opportunities.”
The Tigers now look forward to their trip to Queens to take on St. John's on Sep. 27, which is the last game before they make the six-hour drive up to Hanover, N.H. for the Ivy League play against Dartmouth (2–2–2, 0–0 Ivy) on Oct.1.
Brian Jiang is a contributing writer for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’ He can be reached at email@example.com.