On Tuesday, the Virginia men’s soccer team joined the women’s program as the No. 1 team in the United Coaches poll.
Just a few hours later, the Cavaliers (9-0, 3-0 ACC) lived up to their new ranking with a clinical 3-0 win over an overmatched George Washington (2-7-1, 0-2 Atlantic 10) squad.
Virginia dominated the match from the beginning, controlling possession right from the start. Neither team earned a quality scoring opportunity until George Washington’s Matthew Brummet ripped a shot from the top left of the box toward the upper right corner of the net. UVa’s Colin Shutler leaped to his left and swatted the shot over the net.
“Early on, Colin was tested,” Virginia coach George Gelnovatch said. “He probably made the best save he’s made all year.”
Shutler earned his 16th career shutout and his fifth consecutive clean sheet. The Cavaliers haven’t allowed a goal in their last 537 minutes of play.
“It’s definitely been the transition defense, starting with our strikers [and] midfield,” Shutler said. “Yeah, it looks good on my papers and defensive papers, but it’s the whole team.”
After Shutler’s save, UVa turned its constant possession into a flurry of shots. Axel Gunnarsson nearly scored in the 15th minute, Daryl Dike headed a corner just wide right of the net four minutes later and then rocketed a shot toward goal five minutes after that.
A Joe Bell cross from the left side seemed like it would finally break the scoring drought as it curled left toward the right side of the goal, but Andreas Ueland made contact with the cross and put it over the net.
Robin Afamefuna eventually cashed in on one of Virginia’s many opportunities, depositing a free kick from just outside the top right of the box into the top right portion of the net. Afamefuna struck the ball with his left foot and turned it from left to right away from the goalkeeper to give Virginia a 1-0 lead.
The first 15 minutes of the second half looked like a glorified game of keep away as Virginia passed the ball across the field without much going toward net. That changed in the next minute, as Cabrel Happi Kamseu played a cross from the right side of the field into the left side of the box and Philip Horton slammed a header into the net. The first goal of Horton’s collegiate career gave UVa a 2-0 lead.
“I couldn’t believe it, to be honest with you,” Horton said. “I mean, I saw the ball go in the net, but the guys were making fun of me because I literally paused, like I didn’t move. Then two seconds later I started running toward the guys on the bench.”
UVa’s lead proved insurmountable as it controlled possession for the majority of the final 30 minutes. Virginia recorded 21 shots on the night, while the Colonials only tallied six. Virginia held George Washington to a pair of shots in the second half.
Both teams combined to put a few shots on goal in the final 30 minutes, but most scoring chances were turned away until the final five minutes.
Bret Halsey put a shot on goal from the right side of the box with just under five minutes remaining. His shot was turned away by the face of George Washington’s goalkeeper Noah Lubin, who performed admirably in net for the Colonials, finishing with six saves and making a number of athletic moves during the night. Halsey persisted, however, grabbing his rebound and lofting it over everyone and into the top left corner of the goal.
Halsey’s first career goal resulted in the final goal of the game, as UVa picked up the 3-0 win.
While the Cavaliers overpowered George Washington, the road gets tougher for the nation’s top-ranked team. Louisville, which is 3-0 in games against ranked opponents this season, visits Charlottesville on Friday for an ACC clash.