by Tom Utescher
For the second time this season, the men’s soccer team at Chestnut Hill College has not only knocked off a conference rival it had never defeated before, but has done it by shutout.
A first-half goal by freshman Nils Fussen and an insurance score by senior Mushe Wamulume netted the Griffins a 2-0 victory over New York’s Dominican College, raising their record to 3-1-1 within the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, and 4-3-1 overall. Just four days earlier, CHC had broken a string of setbacks against another CACC foe, Wilmington University, whipping the Wildcats, 3-0.
CHC head coach Keith Cappo pointed out that Dominican has appeared in the NCAA Division II regional rankings this fall, and that two previous CHC shut-out victims, Wilmington and Post University, were nationally ranked when the Griffins played them. Freshman goalie James Jackson also has a fourth whitewash to his credit, a 1-0 win over California Pa. in Chestnut Hill’s 2013 home opener.
“He’s earned the respect of his teammates with how hard he trains,” Cappo said, “and that feeds into the guys believing in him and playing strong in front of him.
“Our two center backs, Ross Garabedian and Brooks Mirabella, have been outstanding,” the coach continued. “I’ve always thought this team could play well defensively; we just have a lot of guys who are committed to doing that.”
On offense, senior Darryl Richardson, Jr. had CHC’s first really threatening shot in Saturday’s game, firing a ball that was tipped wide of the far post by Dominican keeper Andres Ruiz (who, like Jackson, had five saves in the game). A dozen minutes in, the Chargers sent a ball right across the mouth of the Griffins’ goal, but they didn’t have anyone on the weak side in position to score.
With around 11 minutes left in the opening period, Chestnut Hill had opportunities on two corner kicks, and wasn’t able to get off a quality shot either time. A little later, the visitors’ Ruiz displayed quick reflexes as he corralled a ball that CHC sophomore Dom Pernice headed down near his feet from relatively close range.
The Griffins chalked up what became the game-winning goal with 4:51 remaining in the half. On a free kick from out past the 18, sophomore Tristan Johns put the ball in play and cleared Dominican’s defensive wall, and Fussen, the freshman, applied his foot about seven yards away from the cage to beat Ruiz.
For the start of the second period, CHC’s Cappo related, “We knew they were going to come out strong, and we were able to weather that storm.”
In the early minutes Dominican drilled one shot wide left on a transition run into the box, and hit another ball over the crossbar a little later. Some 16 minutes in, Jackson came out of the Griffins’ cage to make a sliding grab on a loose ball before the Chargers could catch up to it.
Having repulsed the initial assaults by the visitors, CHC took the ball up into the offensive half more and more often.
Cappo revealed, “In situations where we have a lead and the other team starts to push guys forward, I think we’ve gotten better at staying composed and then seeing opportunities where we can attack also, instead of retreating back into a shell.”
On a well disciplined, multi-player attack, the Griffins brought the ball into the box on the left side and junior Juan Amaya prodded it along on its path towards the goal.
Making a parallel run through the middle, Wamulume finished the play, moving the hosts ahead 2-1 with 15:28 left to play.
After that, Dominican appeared listless; the Chargers’ efforts simply to avoid a shutout seemed halfhearted. CHC’s Fussen, among other players for the home side, launched several strong shots down the stretch, and the final tally could easily have been 3-0, or worse.
The Griffins’ performance showed Cappo, “We’re starting to play more consistently, and a lot of that is the result of the guys keeping their focus and working hard in games and in practice.”