By Stephen Neukam
The men’s soccer team pushed its winning streak to seven games after a pair of double-overtime victories, 1-0 over undefeated Manhattan, and 2-1 at Niagara.
Rider put it’s No. 25 national ranking on the line in a rematch of last year’s MAAC championship game against Manhattan.
The Jaspers began the night atop the MAAC, looked content absorbing pressure from the Rider attack, perhaps to escape with a draw. As the rain began to fall on the turf, the game took a physical turn. In the span of two minutes toward the end of the first half, three yellow cards were issued, two of which cautioned the Jaspers.
The first half ended with the score tied at zero.
The second half consisted of much of the same. Broncs’ senior keeper David Pastuna, who had allowed just three goals in the previous five matches, denied Manhattan in the scarce opportunities they created. The whistle of the referee drew to a close the first 90 minutes of regulation, finishing 0-0, with two ten-minute overtime periods ahead.
The game began to open up for the Broncs in the first overtime period, forcing four saves by Manhattan sophomore keeper Marcellin Gohier. However, the winning goal remained elusive, and the game spilled into a second overtime.
The Broncs looked determined to get their desired result from the contest. In the 109th minute, Rider won a corner which was then whipped in by senior forward Elliot Otmani. The ball found the head of freshman forward Pablo DeCastro, who redirected the ball past Gohier and sealed the victory for the Broncs. With this goal, Rider became the first opponent to score against Manhattan in conference play this season.
“Those guys are great, they’re veterans,” said Head Coach Charlie Inverso. “They did a tremendous job in helping us keep our heads, because once they are on the field there’s not much the coaches can do.”
DeCastro also emphasized the commitment of the team, saying, “We were very focused on the moment.” DeCastro spoke on the significance of the win, saying, “We want to stay in the top 25, and this was a very important win.”
Pastuna recorded his fourth clean sheet of the season. The goalkeeper’s strong play this season has been crucial to Rider’s success, leading to Pastuna being honored as Rider’s men’s athlete of the month for September.
Following the victory over Manhattan, Rider turned its sights to a road match at Niagara. Niagara, who boasted a 2-8-2 overall record, was looking to find some consistency in its season.
Rider did not have to wait until overtime to open the scoring at Niagara, taking a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute. Senior forward Jose Aguinaga sent a free kick into the Purple Eagles’ box, connecting with the head of freshman defender Sylvain Coco who sent the ball into the net at the far post.
Rider held onto the lead of the match for the next 58 minutes. In the 75th minute, Niagara junior midfielder Bautista Pedezert finished an assist from freshman midfielder Danilo Pekovic. The Broncs, for the second game in a row, faced overtime action. After committing a foul just outside the 18-yard box in the final seconds, Niagara defenders delayed the match by standing over the ball which prompted the referee to call for a stop of the clock. With six seconds remaining, Aguinaga sent his free kick towards the Purple Eagles’ goal, whizzing the ball past the keeper and sealing Rider’s seventh straight victory.
After recording two more wins the Broncs have now moved up in the United Soccer Coaches National Poll from No. 25 to No. 22.
The College Soccer News National Poll has also recognized the Broncs this week and listed them as No. 24 in their ranks.
The Broncs have won the MAAC Tournament the last two seasons and look to finish their final five regular season matches strong to secure a first-round bye in the tournament.
Rider, will hit the road to take on Siena on Oct. 18 at 1 p.m. On Oct. 21 the Broncs will return home to Ben Cohen Field to go head-to-head against Canisius.