Villanova appeared to be on their way to a 1-0 win over Philly Soccer Six rivals Drexel in an exhibition match at Higgins Soccer Complex on Wednesday, when an unlikely hero stepped up for the visitors.
Connor Ryan, a junior midfielder who has never scored in 20 regular season appearances, pounced on a ball in the box and delivered the equalizer just before time expired off a play that began with senior goalkeeper Tyler Afflerback passing a ball in from just inside his own half.
The hosts had taken the lead on a long free kick from redshirt junior Miguel Polley after a scoreless first half.
Drexel had a golden opportunity to take the lead just before halftime when freshman Sean Teixeira was whistled for a penalty inside the 18, but redshirt junior goalkeeper Will Steiner stonewalled Tristan Thompson’s kick from the spot to keep the teams scoreless going into the halftime break.
Steiner would be called on again in the second half on a couple occasions, but his opposite number in the Drexel goal had more work to do on the day. Afflerback’s toughest save came seconds after Lucas Hodges fired a shot off the post and got the ball back all alone in on the goalkeeper, who did well to cut down the angle and force the ball out for a corner.
Afflerback made another fine kick save on Philadelphia Union Academy grad Zach Zandi in the first half.
Zandi, a sophomore midfielder, started the match alongside fellow Union Academy grad Shane Bradley, who did well anchoring the defense at center back. Bradley’s twin brother, Conor Bradley, came off the bench to play in a holding midfield role.
They were among several newcomers in Villanova’s highly touted recruiting class to see the field. Teixeira, a New York Red Bulls Academy product, started at right back while Nikkye DePoint paired with Bradley at center back and attacker Jacob Anderson looked good in his time off the bench.
Drexel had a couple of newcomers of its own contribute in Israeli center back Eden Ben Hemo, who looked like a veteran on the Dragons back line, and midfielder Carlos Cuevas, an Orlando City Academy product who created a couple chances on the offensive end.
Drexel next visits Binghamton for their final tune-up before the start of the regular season on the road at St. John’s on Friday, August 26. Villanova opens their regular season on August 26 at home against Rider at 4 p.m.