BETHLEHEM, Pa. – After creating a plethora of opportunities and outshooting the Eagles, 23-11, the Lehigh men’s soccer team fell to American Saturday night on a second half goal, 1-0. Junior James Meyerkord blasted seven shots, two of which were on the net, but he and the rest of the Mountain Hawks were unable to find the back of the goal despite immense pressure all night.
"We worked hard and they executed the game plan tonight," said Koski. "We were down in their end and had some good looks, but just couldn’t put it away and you have to do that to win Patriot League games. We really have to bring it and try to get three points at Army, and hope that some other teams help us out."
The first half began with a Lehigh opportunity in the 19th minute, as Meyerkord blasted a shot off a bouncing ball in the near side of the American box, but the shot flew just high of the Eagles’ crossbar and bounded out-of-bounds. American sophomore Conor Osborne found himself with the ball in the top near side of the Lehigh box a few minutes later and ripped a shot, but freshman back Ben Davis deflected the ball with his body and out of harm’s way to clear the opportunity.
"Jimmy has really done well lately in creating opportunities for himself and his attitude to look to goal is great," said Koski. "I think if you give him enough chances he’s going to find the back of the net."
The action continued to heat up as the half moved on when American was able to create a scramble in front of the Lehigh goal in the 37th minute and, after a sequence of passes, the ball rolled toward the Mountain Hawk far post, but Nugent slid to cover the ball and end the threat. Off the ensuing clear, Davis blasted a shot from the top near side of the American box, but the shot sailed just high. Then, Lehigh kept on the attack when, in the 44th minute, sophomore Brian Suchoski was able to get off a topspin shot from the near side of the American box off a throw-in, but the American keeper was able to make the diving save to keep the ball from the back of the net. That was the last opportunity of the half, as the horn sounded.
Just 1:09 into the second half, the Eagles caught a break as a clearing pass found junior Colin Seigfreid in the middle of the field. Seigfreid dribble up the far side, and with one defender to beat, passed the ball to freshman Charlie Hunter who ripped a shot past Nugent and inside the far post for a 1-0 lead.
"It was a counterattack goal and they did a really good job of breaking out with two players," said Koski. "We committed numbers in the box for a restart and we left ourselves a little exposed."
Lehigh amped up the pressure in the 60th minute, when junior Ben Wysocki passed a corner kick to freshman Ryan Bertrando who crossed the rock into the American box looking for junior Kyle Lucas. Lucas slipped on the slick footing and the ball trickled aside and out of bounds, ending the threat.
"I think our biggest weakness all year has been not being able to put the ball away," said Koski. "We have been able to get the ball where we want it, but just haven’t been able to get players there at the right time and that’s my responsibility. I’ve got to figure out better runs for our guys and better timing of those runs."
The save of the night was made in the 64th minute when Nugent made a diving stop to his right on the American attack from about 10 yards out. The junior keeper knocked the ball out of the air and covered it to keep the game at a one-goal deficit.
With less than 10 minutes to play, Lehigh brought its offense forward, creating tremendous pressure on the Eagles’ defense. In the 81st minute, Davis headed a ball in the Eagles’ box that went just high, dropping on top of the American net as the freshman tried to float one over the American keeper.
Lehigh again created an opportunity, this time in the 82nd minute when Suchoski got off a shot that was saved and off the rebound, senior Cameron Omsberg ripped another shot, but it was blocked by an American defender. As the clock ticked down, Lehigh attempted to pursue one more push, but the horn sounded and American escaped with the 1-0 victory to seal their playoff berth.
Lehigh will now travel to West Point, N.Y. on November 3 to take on the Black Knights of Army at 7:30 p.m. in the regular season finale. The Mountain Hawks will need to win against Army and some help to get into the Patriot League Tournament.
"We have to take care of our business," said Koski. "Our job is to go out and try to find a way to get three points at Army next week. I think they are a very good team and are going to be challenging and we have to have a great week of practice to get ready for them."