George Mason played nearly perfect defensive soccer yesterday at American University. The Patriots controlled the game in what goalkeeper Martin Dunphy called "the best I've seen us play this season."
But American took advantage of its one shot on goal in the first half and held on to defeat Mason, 1-0, in a Colonial Athletic Association match.
Although it's an intense area rivalry, American (7-5-2, 3-1-1 in the CAA) has not lost to the Patriots since 1982. Mason is 10-4-3, 3-1-1.
AU junior Todd Trimble made the best of his first half opportunity, scoring at 25:27.
Mason had big advantages in shots on goal (11-6) and corner kicks (12-1), but it couldn't put the ball past goalkeeper Tim Helmig.
"We can't buy a goal," said Mason Coach Gordon Bradley, whose team's NCAA tournament chances were reduced to slim. "We played ever so well. The ball was in their half for most of the game, but you have to put the ball in the net."
The Patriots, who play at 11th-ranked William and Mary Sunday, were frustrated throughout. Play was in the AU end for almost the entire second half, but the Patriots missed in every direction.
"We're getting a lot of chances and we're playing really well," said Mark Pulisic, the Patriots' leading scorer with eight goals. "We just can't finish. It's frustrating."
Helmig, a sophomore from Potomac, made a fine leaping save on Ray Elsesser's hard shot midway in the first half. But he wasn't seriously challenged in the second half as the Patriots couldn't get a solid shot on goal from close range.
The Eagles' defense played very well. "I can't be more pleased with the defense," AU Coach Pete Mehlert said. "They showed great physical effort and concentration."
Trimble's goal was set up by Frode Willumsen's long throw-in from the right sideline. AU's Billy Corbett was positioned in the penalty box and headed the throw over two Mason defenders.
Trimble volleyed the loose ball from five yards into the left corner for his first goal of the year.
"I had some space and I volleyed it with my right foot," said Trimble, who is from Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Md. "The goalie got a hand on it but I put enough on it to get it in."
Besides Trimble's goal, AU's best chances came on poor back passes from Mason defenders to Dunphy, who had to make two lunging saves.
"The game was ours," Bradley said. "We had three or four one-on-ones with the goalie, but we couldn't do anything."
UMBC 2, Georgetown 1:
John Spiers' goal with 2:24 left in the second overtime lifted the host Retrievers (9-4-1) to their seventh straight victory. Georgetown is 6-8.
UDC 2, Gallaudet 1:
Mario Rojas and John Etchi scored second-half goals to rally the Firebirds (4-4) to victory at home. Gallaudet is 5-5.