Every year teams are rising and falling, improving and regressing. It takes an exceptional team and culture to build long- term success. With their fifth consecutive year reaching the top of the U.S. soccer coaches poll, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons men’s soccer team has proven it is one of those exceptional teams.
This past week, Wake Forest solidified its No. 1 ranking with a 3-1 win over Dartmouth on Friday and a 4-0 win over Houston Baptist on Monday.
In addition to its fifth consecutive season being ranked No. 1, the Deacs also continued their streak of being ranked in the top 10 of 37 consecutive polls and being in the top 25 of 57 consecutive polls (dating back to the 2015 preseason poll). Indeed, Wake Forest is one of the powerhouses of the collegiate soccer world.
After the two matches, Wake Forest Head Coach Bobby Muuss noted his team’s ability to score but thought they needed to improve defensively before their upcoming road matchup against ACC foe Pitt on Friday night.
“I’m happy that we’re scoring some goals and we’re getting looks … Defensively we just need to be much much better. We break down defensively, it’s something we have to watch all week,” Muuss said. “If we defend the way we have been defending, we’re going to have to score more goals. Cleaning it up defensively is my main goal right now.”
The 3-1 win over Dartmouth was Muuss’ 150th career win. Freshman star Calvin Harris made his first career start for the Deacs after scoring a goal the week before against Creighton.
Wake Forest started off strong, scoring their first goal just five minutes into the match. Senior defender Eddie Folds nailed a brilliant line-drive cross from the left side of the box that junior Justin McMaster deftly headed past the goalie to give Wake Forest the 1-0 lead.
But in the 28th minute, a defensive miscue by the Demon Deacons led to a Dartmouth goal. A Dartmouth throw-in was headed by Dartmouth’s Tiger Graham in the Wake Forest box, which led to the ball getting behind the defender, allowing Dartmouth’s forward David Alino to strike the ball and score it off the crossbar. The defensive breakdown on the play was a low point for Wake Forest in the game.
The Deacs answered back in the second half with another goal by McMaster in the 62nd minute. Midfielder Bruno Lapa passed the ball to McMaster who was in the right side of the box. McMaster then fired the ball towards the net and it deflected off a Dartmouth defender to give the Demon Deacons the 2-1 lead. Wake Forest clinched the game in the 83rd minute off of a corner kick taken by freshman Omar Hernandez. Senior right back Alistair Johnson headed in the ball to give the Deacs the 3-1 win.
Wake Forest commanded the game and held an 8-1 advantage on corner kicks, a 19-5 advantage on shots and a 9-1 advantage on shots on target. Two-thirds of the Deacs’ ball possession was on the Dartmouth half of the field, while having the ball for 68% of the whole game.
Meanwhile, Muuss played 19 different players during the game, including five true freshmen.
McMaster was the key player of the night with his two goals. When asked about his second goal, which put the team back in the lead and came after a string of close chances for the Deacs, McMaster said, “It felt really good because we kept pushing and pushing. I felt that we really deserved that goal.”