The men’s soccer team put together its second straight good offensive performance Wednesday evening, downing visiting Manhattan 3-0.
Although the team’s new-look attack was quiet in the first half, it generated several quality chances early in the second and finally opened the scoring five minutes in. Freshman defender Rhys Williams, who was caught up the field thanks to a Columbia corner kick moments earlier, received a pass from senior midfielder David Najem around the edge of the Jaspers’ penalty box. Williams turned and tucked a shot inside the right post for his first collegiate goal.
“Coach keeps telling me that I’m better as an attacking player,” Williams said of head coach Kevin Anderson. “Obviously I know my defensive roles and I need to stay back sometimes, but my ultimate goal is to help the attack, get into the attack, and hopefully finish a play.”
A minute later, Najem nearly combined with two other freshmen, midfielder Andrew Tinari and forward Nicholas Pappacena, for another goal. Tinari passed the ball to Najem on the right side, who sent a through-ball to Pappacena racing down the flank. Pappacena, running out of room near the goal line, passed back into the penalty box, behind Najem but hitting Tinari in stride. The Manhattan defense managed to recover, though, and blocked Tinari’s shot from close range.
Tinari and Najem did eventually connect 10 minutes later for the Lions’ second tally. With most Manhattan players caught upfield, Tinari sent Najem in alone behind the defense, and he calmly finished past Jaspers’ rookie goalkeeper Alex Coates McDowall for his third goal of the season.
“The coaches had decided that they’re going to try me out in a little new role on the outside, and I think I’ve adjusted well,” said Najem, who put more shots on net on Wednesday than he did all of last season. “Guys around me are playing extremely well, finding me in the right moments. We are very opportunistic as a team and we’re creating great chances.”
The Lions didn’t give Manhattan many chances on offense for most of the match. The centerpiece of the Jaspers’ offense, freshman Daniel Laguna Kennedy, was quiet until the final 15 minutes. His best chance came in a race to the ball with the Light Blue goalie, sophomore Kyle Jackson. Jackson won the race, colliding with Kennedy and leaving the Manhattan coaching staff screaming for a penalty kick. Although Jackson got into trouble a couple of times in the first half by coming out of the net and failing to punch or catch the ball, his defense was there to bail him out.
The final great scoring chance of the game went to the Lions, as sophomore midfielder Antonio Matarazzo took advantage of Manhattan’s efforts to tie the game. He was able to dribble up the field with the ball and score, almost unhindered.
Columbia can make it three wins in a row Saturday at Northeastern.