October 10, 2018

Finding Finishing Touch at the Right Time, PU Men’s Soccer Tops Brown, Now 1-0-1 Ivy

STRONG FINISH: Princeton University men’s soccer player Gaby Paniagua goes after the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore midfielder Paniagua scored a second half goal to help Princeton defeat visiting Brown 2-0. The Tigers, who improved to 5-4-1 overall and 1-0-1 Ivy League with the win, were slated to play at St. John’s on October 9 before resuming Ivy play with a game at Columbia on October 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Even though his Princeton University men’s soccer team controlled possession in the first half against visiting Brown last Saturday, Jim Barlow was aggravated.

Despite Princeton’s dazzling play, it had nothing to show for it as the rivals were locked in a 0-0 stalemate at halftime.

“The first half against Brown might have been the best half we have played in a really long time, definitely all year, but to go through that half and have as much possession and as much play in the final third in their end without getting a goal is really frustrating,” said Princeton head coach Barlow.

“That is exactly what we talked about at halftime. It was, do we want to be defined as a team that plays well, passes well but never finishes off chances and keeps the other team in the game, or do we want to finish this game off?”

Choosing the latter option, the Tigers got a goal from sophomore midfielder/forward Kevin O’Toole 4:44 into the second half and added another tally less than five minutes later as O’Toole set up a score by classmate Gaby Paniagua as Princeton pulled away to a 2-0 victory, improving to 5-4-1 overall and 1-0-1 Ivy League.

“Kevin has been creating chances and scoring himself and having him back from injury has been a big boost to our attack for sure,” said Barlow.

“I am pretty sure that Gaby leads the league in shots. Hopefully that goal Saturday gets him going because he does find himself in a lot of good spots. He gets shots off; he is really comfortable on the ball.”

The Princeton defense held the fort down the stretch, highlighted by goalie Jacob Schachner stopping a penally kick in the 76th minute.

“The defense was really solid until we got up 2-0 and then I thought our team defending became a little bit lax and we got a little bit stretched out,” said Barlow.

“They started getting more dangerous and it led to a couple of chances. Fortunately, Jacob made a save on the penalty. If they score the penalty, who knows what that game looks like at the end?”

Ending up with a win over the Bears was satisfying for Barlow. “We haven’t beaten them since 2014, so to beat Brown was awesome,” said Barlow.

“We were hoping to get two wins out of Dartmouth (a 2-2 tie on September 29) and Brown but a win and a tie certainly keeps us in contention. Now we have some huge games ahead of us.”

The Tigers face a huge challenge this Saturday as they head to New York City to play Columbia (5-3-1 overall, 2-0 Ivy).

“It is a very talented team; they are playing with a lot of confidence right now because they have beaten Brown at Brown and Penn at Penn to start the league,” said Barlow, noting that the Lions advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2017. “We know it is going to be a really tough game and a very good team, but we are excited for it.”

In order to come through with a win, Princeton will need to keep displaying an exciting brand of soccer.

“We have to play with the intensity going forward that we did against Brown,” said Barlow.

“It is creating chances while at the same time understanding that when the ball turns over Columbia is a very dangerous team. We need to make sure that we are good in transition and our defensive shape is solid.”