Men’s Game of the Week: St. John’s Edges Seton Hall

Andres Arcila sends in a cross

NCAA logoIn a cagey, physical contest, Seton Hall (3-4-1) lost to St. John’s (4-2-1), 1-0, on Saturday. After a 39th minute wonder goal from senior Jordan Shankle — the defender’s first Division 1 goal — the Red Storm packed it in defensively, holding off the Pirates with a determined team effort. By the final whistle, Seton Hall was down to nine men, having seen junior midfielder Spencer Burkhardt sent off after a rash tackle in the 79th minute, while teammate Nick Najera saw his second yellow for getting involved in a brief scuffle. With the two-man advantage, St. John’s easily saw out the remainder of the Big East Conference game in South Orange, N.J.

Seton Hall coach Gerson Echeverry and Dave Masur of St. John’s spent much of the tense second-half in conversation with each other and the officials, clearly audible to the stand behind them. Their back-and-forth mostly stayed polite, though both coaches grew visibly upset with the officials as the game wore on. More than once, Masur loudly accused the Pirates star Andrés Arcila of diving, and the tension on the sideline rivaled the fire of the match.

While the officials tried to let the teams play, in the second half things clearly got out of hand. Both teams were guilty of pushing, shoving and jersey-tugging, particularly on long balls played out by the keepers. Additionally, quite a few rough tackles gave the home crowd several calls for one of the Johnnies to be sent off. Despite 28 total fouls compared to 19 for Seton Hall, St. John’s finished with a full squad on the field.

The only goal of the game came in dramatic fashion 39 minutes in, with a 30-yard volley bouncing in off the underside of the goal. St. John’s sent a free kick in after freshman Leon Donnellan drew a foul outside the box, but the Hall was able to repel the attack and clear the ball only as far as Shankle. After a controlling touch, the senior sent a right-footed strike past goalkeeper Steven Catudal.

St. John’s would have expected to struggle in the attacking third without target man Harry Cooksley, who was on the bench in a walking boot. The star man for the Pirates, the Colombian Arcila, never found his footing, wasting several key opportunities. Credit to Red Storm defensive midfielder Benny Lafortune, a product of Brooklyn’s Erasmus Hall, who marked Arcila out of the game for long stretches. Even on free kicks, Arcila’s normally deadly left foot failed him time and again, and on those occasions when his crosses got into dangerous areas, his teammates were unable to get on the end of them.

In front of a 300-strong crowd at Owen T. Carroll Field, neither team was able to showcase much creativity in possession. Through 90 minutes, the linesmen needed to raise the flag for offside only once, reflecting the conservative setup favored by both coaches. If this Big East opener for both teams is to be a sign of things to come this season, the teams are in for a physical, old-fashioned competition, where fouls outnumber goals. Neither team was willing to send numbers forward into attack, even as Seton Hall played from behind for most of it. The Pirates registered only 10 shots to St. John’s 8.