By Brandon Scalea
Coming into last week, Monmouth was considered by many to have the best men’s soccer team in the MAAC. Now, that topic might be up for discussion.
On Oct. 7, the Broncs tied defending conference champion Monmouth at home, before traveling up to Siena on Oct. 10 to pick up a 3-2 victory, thanks to three goals in two games by sophomore forward and MAAC Player of the Week Jose Aguinaga.
Aguinaga said that although it feels good to be honored by the MAAC, he’s more excited about his team’s recent play.
“It’s nice to be recognized for the things that we do,” said Aguinaga. “But the best part of the week is that we tied against a very good team and won against another good team. The week that our team had was more special [than the personal award].”
Against Monmouth (8-3-2, 4-0-1 MAAC), the Broncs were welcomed home to Ben Cohen Field with a crowd of 500 plus. After a scoreless first half that saw Rider (7-4-1, 2-2-1 MAAC) dominate ball possession and shots, the Hawks struck first in the 53rd minute. Sophomore forward Danny Figarella was able to score off a rebound past Rider’s junior goalkeeper David Pastuna for the 1-0 lead.
However, the lead did not last for very long. Just nine minutes later, Aguinaga headed the ball into the net to tie the game, sending the energetic crowd onto its feet.
The goal was followed by a flurry of offense from the Broncs, but they could not quite get another past Monmouth’s senior goalkeeper, Eric Klenofksy.
At the end of regulation, the game was still tied. Two extra periods of 10 minutes were still not enough to see a game-winner, as it ended in a tie. The draw ended Rider’s three-game losing streak to its conference rival.
Aguinaga said that although his team is happy with the tie, they feel as though they played well enough to win.
“It was a very good game and a great atmosphere to play in,” he said. “But we feel that this year, we have the potential to beat these kinds of teams.”
The momentum carried over three days later when the Broncs headed to Albany, New York for a meeting with another elite MAAC program, Siena (4-7-2, 3-2 MAAC).
In its second consecutive overtime game, Rider was able to score in the extra frame for a 3-2 victory.
Aguinaga scored twice in the game, including the game-winner, putting his total to three goals in the two-game span.
The “golden goal” came in the 105th minute of play when Aguinaga used his head once again off a pass from senior forward Justin Veltri.
Veltri had some confident words about his team’s recent success, but said they are still not playing to their full potential.
“We feel as though we have the best team in the MAAC,” he said. “We should be able to beat every team in this conference, and not by a last-minute overtime goal. We have been lucky so far because we haven’t been playing our best soccer.”
In order to get to overtime, however, the Broncs had to battle back. Aguinaga scored a huge goal assisted by sophomore forward Matt Crust with just 4:45 left in the game to tie the score at 2.
Senior goalkeeper Ryan Baird picked up his fourth win of the season after making seven saves, including a penalty kick. Despite being outshot 21-17 by the Saints, the Broncs were able to pick up their second conference win of the season.
Rider will look to continue its offensive success when they travel to Niagara on Oct. 14.
“Going up to Niagara is always a challenge in just the travel itself,” Veltri said. “If we can all get it together and play like we know we can play, we shouldn’t have a problem coming home with a win.”