By Marvin Azrak
The YU men’s soccer team entered this season with championship aspirations, retaining 17 returning players from the 2021 campaign, where they reached the Skyline Conference semifinals. Under the guidance of coach Tobias Esche and his co-staff John Schatz, Joshua Gochiz, and Ezequiel Lepera, the team now possesses the assets to overcome the offensive struggles that plagued them last year and reach the summit. Now, a third of the way through the season, the team finds themselves with a 2-1-1 overall record, searching for the internal spark to rekindle their mojo. A player anonymously remarked: “it’s disappointing because we know we’re better than what we’ve displayed out there.” We get in our way late in ballgames, and it’s up to us to figure it out.”
The Macs showed their versatility in the season opener in a non-conference matchup at Lehman College. The first goal of both the game and the season was scored in the 31st minute by a skillful collaboration between Josh Ziarno and David Anitran. Minutes into the second half, Ziarno scored his second goal with a helpful assist from Gabe Einhorn to give YU the lead for good. Time-pressed, Lehman applied pressure seeking the equalizer l but was denied by goalkeeper Nicolas Dlugach, whose diving stop kick-started a Macs insurance play. Soon after, Lucas Barades scored YU’s third, giving the Macs a two-goal lead. It was an impressive debut for coach Esche, whose tactical adjustments empowered the team to victory. A player stated: “he’s the smartest coach I’ve ever played for. His vision is unmatched, and it’s a guarantee we’ll be in every contest because we’ve got the coaching advantage. It gives us a boost before the game even starts.” Dlugach’s 11 saves led the way. It was a solid start to the season. “It wasn’t our best performance, but pretty good for the first game,” a player told the Observer.”
The Mac’s home opener was a 3-0 match against Sarah Lawrence. Despite the win, the team wasn’t satisfied with their performance. A player commented: “that was probably the worst I’ve seen us play in practice or a game, but we won, so we’ll take it. It’s a team we should’ve picked apart early and couldn’t cash in on our opportunities which allowed them to remain in the contest, which won’t work against stiffer competition.” The Mac’s offense went dormant for the remainder of the first half after an early goal by Yoan Reiter. Still, senior stopper Benjamin Brener made some big saves, and after a rousing talk from Esche, the Macs scored two more goals, including an impressive rebound by Josh Ziarno.
In last season’s semi-final, the Macs were eliminated in a 1-0 double overtime loss to Mount Saint Vincent. Revamped and recouped, the team sought better results in their first matchup with the reigning champs but squandered a late lead in a stormy 5-3 defeat. Despite the rain, Junior Lucas Barades kept the team afloat with a magnificent hat trick, and the Macs held a two-goal lead at the half. Unfortunately, Mount Saint Vincent showcased their championship skill in the second half’s early minutes and sliced the deficit in half. After going up by two again, the Macs looked to their stifling defense to wrap things up, but injuries and undisciplined play saw the tide turn for the worse and ultimately resulted in a loss for YU. Within 14 seconds, Mount Saint Vincent scored two goals to even the marks. After several attempts by the Macs to regain their standing, Augustus McGiff capped the comeback with a late tally to clinch an exhilarating 5-3 Saint Vincent win.
A player recounted: “we blew an opportunity to surmount ourselves early, and they exposed our deep woes towards the end. We hung with them, but they were deeper and wore us down physically and mentally. That being said, they’re beatable, and we’ll get them next time.”
The Macs returned to their home pitch and faced the conference rival Merchant Marines in another disappointing match. Although the Macs secured 11 corners, the Marines forced the draw. “We’re not reaching the level we know we’re capable of, but understand there’s a lot of soccer left to play, and it’s only up from here,” quipped a player. After falling behind early, the Macs upped their game, and before the first half ended, Rafael Cohen, on a brilliant assist from Lucas Barades, evened the score. The game then turned vicious, with numerous yellow cards handed out to both sides by the referees. In the 58th minute, the Macs forged ahead with an exceptional goal made by Ethan Fettya, giving them a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately, within the last 18 minutes of the game, Merchant tied on a corner kick. A player expressed, “chippy contest, but we deserved a win with how we competed and outplayed them in the big moments. A key to winning is creating your luck, which we weren’t able to do late in games this weekend, and it’s on us individuals to lift each other and lead by example. We believe we have as good a team as anyone, but we must go out there and show it.”
Overall, the team’s offense has increased from 2.2 goals per game last season to 2.75 this year, but their goals against have alarmingly spiked from 1.7 GAPG to 2.25. A player affirmed: “defense wins championships, and we’re having issues with that now. Yes, we’re an offensive-minded team because that’s the DNA of most of us, but most of our goals have come when we’re disciplined defensively, allowing us to vault into our prolific attack.”