Club soccer beats TCNJ, falls to Stevens Institute

Co-captain Josh Bloom and teammates. (Isaac Opoku for The Phoenix)

Swarthmore Men’s Club Soccer split a doubleheader this Saturday, hosted at Haverford College. The team opened the day with a decisive 6-2 defeat of The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), but was forced to turn right around and play the strong club from Stevens Institute of Technology. That 5-2 loss brought Swarthmore’s record to 2-2 on the year,

good for second place in its division in the Live Futbol League.

Swarthmore jumped out to a quick lead on TCNJ. Jessi Velasco ’13 opened the scoring on a strike into the bottom left-hand corner of the net from the top of the 18-yard box. Soon after, Isaac Opoku ’14 found the bottom right corner of the goal to make it 2-0 off an assist from Duke Yeboah ’13.

TCNJ refused to go down without a fight. Immediately after they had cut Swarthmore’s lead in half on a successful penalty kick, Swarthmore’s Elan Silverblatt-Buser ’12 got tackled from behind, giving TCNJ the ball at midfield. In control, the TCNJ offense moved quickly, getting the ball to their rightwing midfielder who played it off the post and in for the equalizer.

“I think we might have slacked off a bit,” Maher Shaban ’13 said of the shift in momentum. “We went up 2-0, and relaxed, and suddenly they scored two goals, and we thought ‘Hey, we might actually lose this game, and if we lose we’re definitely not going to make the playoffs.’”

Team members take a break. (Courtesy of Isaac Opoku)

With the score now tied 2-2 and the club’s playoff hopes in jeopardy, it was up to Swarthmore to take control of the match. They responded beautifully with four successive scores, regaining the lead on Velasco’s second goal of the match. The shot came out from about 25 yards, deflecting off the cross-bar and over the goal line. Soon after, Ian Anderson ’13 added his first of two goals off the TCNJ goalkeeper’s rebound to make it 4-2. Sam Tomlinson ’15 scored off an assist from Alex Cannon ’14, followed quickly by Anderson’s second goal, this one off a pass from Velasco, that turned out to be the last goal of the match.

Unfortunately for Swarthmore, the tight schedule of the day’s matches gave them little time to enjoy their victory. Minutes after the win over TCNJbecame official, the club had to begin its match against Stevens, a team considered to be one of the toughest in the league.

“We got maybe ten minutes to get a drink, then get back out there,” Anderson said, “We had just played TCNJ, now we were playing Stevens, probably the best team in the league, who was completely fresh.”

As Swarthmore had against TCNJ, Stevens jumped out to an early lead against the fatigued club.

Swarthmore was unable to break through until the second half, when Opoku drew the goalkeeper toward him, then hit Shaban, who made it 3-1. After Stevens had gone back up by three goals, Dan Stuart ’14 made it 4-2 off a penalty kick for what would be Swarthmore’s final goal of the afternoon. Stevens added a garbage-time score late in the game well after the outcome had been determined.

Among the injuries to the team was a broken ankle for captain Josh Bloom ’13. Overall, four in-game injuries against Stevens tested the club’s depth.

“I think in club soccer, players are a lot less in control,” Shaban said by way of providing insight on the rash of injuries. “Stevens is pretty big, and so many guys in club soccer are not properly coached in the first place.”

Swarthmore hosts its last league games of the season this Saturday. The club will play TCNJ at 1 p.m. and Haverford at 4 p.m.

“If we beat or tie TCNJ and Haverford, then we will qualify for the playoffs, which are held in the spring,” Bloom said.

Field location is still being determined.

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