Cumberland (6-1-0) played without Daniel Williams, the leading goal scorer in the Mid-South Conference, and junior Sondre Risa, the leader on the backline throughout his career for CU, because of injuries.
Neither team mustered much offense in the opening half, taking six shots apiece, though Bakary Bagayogo’s shot from near the by-line was blocked away and Watson’s shot from the penalty spot was cleared away after the RedHawks players stopped, waiting for a stoppage by the referee. Bagayogo had another chance later in the period but his attempt sailed wide.
Watson netted his fourth goal of the season in the 37th minute, with Brian McNamara sliding a pass between two defenders and Watson firing high and right past a charging Naoya Fugono for a 1-0 CU edge at intermission.
Things heated up in the second half for both teams, with Martin Methodist constantly testing the Cumberland backline that included three freshmen. Bennet Strrutz bailed out his young mates on a couple of occasions, coming off his line to thwart possible shots by the RedHawks, and the 6-foot-6 junior made a tremendous save midway through the half on a 30-yard free kick by Jack McCarren, sprawling to knock away the shot headed for the upper 90.
Cumberland caught Martin Methodist pressing forward late in the half, with Crowley taking a long pass from Aidán Doherty. He beat two defenders before controlling the ball and flicking it past Fugono in the 76th minute for an insurance goal.
Martin Methodist continued to press and nearly scored with just over two minutes to go, but Shou Mochizucki’s header hit the right post and the rebound was cleared away before the RedHawks could get another attempt at net.
Martin Methodist (6-1-0) outshot the Phoenix, 19-10, but only three of those shots ended up on net. Strutz made three saves while Fugono had just one.
Cumberland will play at home again Saturday against Oakland City University at 3 p.m. before opening Mid-South Conference play at home versus the University of the Cumberlands next Tuesday.