Following last Monday’s game against Potomac Falls, the George Mason High School boys varsity soccer team trotted off the field at Moore Cadillac Stadium with a sense of accomplishment and pride on their faces, unfazed by the fact that they were the owners of the low number in the 2-0 final score.
So, after falling to the AA Panthers, why was Mason so upbeat? Well, after 80 minutes of a physical and up-tempo style of play on the parts of both teams, the Mustangs walked off the pitch knowing they held the state runner-up and perennial juggernaut to a mere two goals, and came within a few defensive miscues of an unlikely upset.
Junior Anthony Andrianarison, who was faced with the task of marking Gatorade State Player of the Year and First-Team Washington Post All-Met selection Uche Onyeador, responded remarkably, shutting down a player who had scored 42 goals last year by holding the senior scoreless throughout the contest.
Andrianarison consistently frustrated Onyeador, drawing several pushing and shielding fouls from the Potomac Falls star with his flypaper-like defense. Towards the end of the game, the striker began to shoot at every opportunity, slicing his way past the defense, but Andrianarison was always there waiting to prevent any further damage. After the game, the Mason sweeper described his performance in three short words, “shut him down.”
“I was very proud of how [Anthony] played tonight,” said Mason Head Coach Arthur Iwanicki. “Onyeador did not even get close to the goal at all.”
For the most part, the rest of the Mason defense also shutdown the potent Panther offense. Senior captains Matt Gresko, Wesley Frank and Tim Brooks held the back lines for freshman keeper Tyler Back. However, one early defensive miscue led to the deciding goal.
A misplaced header landed right at the feat of a Panther striker early in the first half, and the Potomac Falls forward blasted it past Back. The shot struck the legs of a diving Gresko, who attempted to deflect the shot away. Instead the shot ricocheted into the net, giving a 1-0 lead to Potomac Falls that the Panthers would not relinquish. The second Panther score came on a beautiful cross in the 36th minute that found the back of the Mason net by way of a well-placed Panther header.
From the looks of the game in the second half, however, it seemed as though Mason was destined for a comeback. The one chance the Mustangs got at a breakaway goal was quelled instantaneously by an ill-timed whistle on the complete opposite end of the field.
With senior Antonio Randrianasolo turning the corner on the right wing with only the keeper to beat in the 63rd minute, the referee halted play, much to the chagrin of the Mustang sideline, to raise a red card on a Panther winger, who had shoved Mason junior Jon Brooks in the back. Despite the ejection, Mason could not recapture their momentum and their few last-ditch scoring efforts fell just short.
“I think we played pretty well tonight, especially in the second half,” commented Iwanicki after the contest. “They took advantage of some mistakes on our part, but good teams will do that to you.”
Iwanicki was also sure to mention the efforts of junior Elio Randrianasolo, who constantly weaved in and out of the bigger Panther defense, finding open shots for himself, as well as Frank and Gresko on the defensive end.
The loss to Potomac Falls can serve as a benchmark for Iwanicki’s team, who will take on Manassas Park in their first Bull Run District game this Friday. The Cougars lost to Potomac Falls 8-0 early in the season, with Onyeador netting four goals. The Mustangs will begin their defense of last season’s undefeated district record on the road at 7 p.m.
From the looks of last Monday’s game, it appears as though the speed and athleticism of the Mustangs (1-2) will be hard to match. With Back holding down the fort consistently in goal, the solid play of the defense and the run-and-gun offense should click when they need it the most.
In order to keep firing on all cylinders, Iwanicki said that his team would have to stay healthy and gain more experience — something that a 2-0 loss almost certainly provided.