Men’s soccer stumbles early in 2-0 loss to St. John’s


Micky Braeger

St. John’s midfielder Atila Ashrafi takes the ball during Saturday’s game.

In their final home game of the season, DePaul men’s soccer fell to St. John’s University 2-0 on Saturday afternoon. While the seniors were honored before the match, the Blue Demons could not recover from two early goals by the high-ranked team.

The Blue Demons were coming off two grueling overtime games entering the match, with the most recent against Butler University that ended tied 0-0 after double overtime.

The game was all St. John’s in the first 10 minutes. The game was all in front of DePaul’s net and it was the Red Storm who got on the board first three minutes into the game with a shot that went past DePaul goalkeeper Gandhi Cruz and into the low right corner of the goal.

That offensive onslaught by St. John’s continued following their goal, and they had two more chances that nearly soared into the DePaul goal each time.

The St. John’s added to their lead 15 minutes into the game off a shot that soared into the top right corner of the goal.

Sophomore forward Marek Gonda had the first real offensive opportunity of the game for the Blue Demons, but it soared wide of the goal.

Soon after the opportunity, a St. John’s player collided with senior midfielder Jake Fuderer and both went down. Following that, the teams jostled together, and the scuffle ended with a yellow card to sophomore midfielder Jacob Huth.

Both teams played aggressively throughout the first half, and by the end of the half, DePaul had four fouls while St. John’s racked up seven. Several players from each side were taken down onto the turf, but all the free kicks did not amount to much.

Gonda was the first Blue Demon to challenge St. John’s goalkeeper in the second half as well, but the shot was scooped up and DePaul continued to trail by two.

St. John’s continued to put pressure on the Blue Demons and Cruz, but the redshirt freshman stood tall in goal in the second half.

Senior midfielder Matthew Brickman almost put the Blue Demons on the board late in the half, but it soared wide of the goal for DePaul’s third shot of the game.

“St. John’s pressure was very intense and high up the field,” Brickman said of some of the challenges in the game. “They were always on our back, and we struggle with that, and I think their size — they’re a lot bigger than us, and that definitely didn’t help.”

The Blue Demons had a free kick opportunity and a corner kick late in the game, but the St. John’s defense stood strong and was able to clear both chances away from their goal.

“That’s the most ridiculous press I’ve ever played against, they’re sending six, seven guys up high to press the ball, so you really don’t have any space, so that’s why you really got to be on it,” senior forward Patrick Watkins said. “All of them are flying, all of them athletic, big, strong, so that was definitely the hardest part, just that defensive pressure they apply high up the field.”

Later in the half, midfielder Julian Saldana was taken down by a St. John’s player, who received a yellow card for the play. Cruz took the free kick but it flew straight into the hands of the leaping St. John’s goalkeeper.

Despite the two early goals, the Blue Demons mounted a solid defensive effort against the strong offensive team, who stands third in the Big East as of Saturday.

“If you let two in, sometimes it snowballs, it can turn into four or five, so I was proud of our guys for getting through that and just sticking to who we were,” head coach Mark Plotkin said. “We challenged them just to compete more in the second half because we felt like we were getting out-competed, and I thought the guys did a much better job.”

The Blue Demons travel to Xavier University on Wednesday for their final game of the season. DePaul sits at eighth in the standings, but many teams are all within a few points of each other in the middle of the conference. With the top six teams making the playoffs, a win from any team could shake up the standings.