The Pirates had a taste of glory, but saw it wash away in the closing minutes against Creighton on Saturday.
Seton Hall put up a good fight against the No. 1 team in the country, but saw its 2-1 lead fall apart with just over 10 minutes left to go in the game. In the end, the Pirates lost their first Big East contest by a final score of 4-2.
The Pirates opened Big East play in the toughest way possible, facing off against the only team in the country with a perfect record, and one armed with one of the nation’s best defenses. Despite that, Seton Hall managed to score two goals against Creighton goalkeeper Connor Sparrow, who only conceded once in the first seven games.
“I’m extremely proud of the effort that the guys gave,” head coach Gerson Echeverry said. “The way that they were handling themselves until the last 18 minutes was great. However, we lack the ability to manage the game. And against a team that is this good, when you can’t manage a game, in a span of 18 minutes there’s three goals.”
Seton Hall started out as the aggressor, looking to apply pressure on the Bluejays and control the tempo of the game. The Pirates had a good amount of possessions over the first 20 minutes, but it was Creighton with the majority of the shots and chances.
In the 26th minute, Creighton opened the scoring after a controversial call from the assistant referee. Creighton midfielder Timo Pitter was charging down the far side of the pitch, and he lifted a shot over Pirates goalkeeper Julian Spindler that hit the crossbar and deflected straight down. Despite being 10 to 15 yards behind the play and not in line with the goal, he indicated that the ball crossed the line, giving Creighton a 1-0 lead.
The Pirates wasted no time responding, scoring the equalizer just over a minute later. Sam Geiler’s initial shot was stopped by the Bluejays keeper, but Andres Arcila got to the rebound and tied the game at 1-1.
Seton Hall appeared to take the lead in the 58th minute, heading the ball past Sparrow on a second effort, but it was called off for offsides. But following a lot of pressure from Creighton, the Pirates took the lead with just 18 minutes left to go. Danny Bartok scored his first goal of the season, capitalizing on a defensive miscue and chipping the ball past the Creighton keeper. Seton Hall led 2-1.
When it seemed like the Pirates were going to walk away with a win, everything fell apart. In the 80th minute, Seton Hall was called for a penalty just on the outside of the box, and Fabian Herbers converted from the spot for his team-leading seventh goal of the season. The floodgates opened, leading to goals from Myles Englis and defender Lucas Stauffer.
“Today was a lesson in why you can’t fall asleep, and that’s been something that’s hampering us throughout the season,” Echeverry said following his team’s late collapse.
The biggest issue for Seton Hall is the defense. Yes, the team has just seven goals in the first eight games, but they’ve conceded 20. That is an average of 2.5 goals allowed per game.
“We’ve been conceding four goals in the last three games,” said Echeverry. “And if you do that, there’s no way you’re going to be able to win.”
Echeverry also discussed the lack of pressure from Seton Hall’s midfielders, saying that they need to “step up” and limit the shots from opposition. Captain Shawn Morrison, a third year defender, had his own perception on what the club needs to improve upon.
“We need to work more tactically and anticipate when they’re going to shoot, and throw our bodies in front of it,” Morrison said. “We need to be safer in that area of the box. And it comes off of turnovers. They get shots off of us turning the ball over in bad areas and making mistakes.”
When asked about what the team will focus on in training, Echeverry had just one thing to say.
“Defending, defending, defending. When you’re giving up this many goals, it’s all about defending.”
The Pirates will continue Big East play next Saturday when they take on the St. John’s Red Storm at Owen T. Carroll Field.
Bobby Bevilacqua can be contacted at email@example.com