By Jason Smith
After two heartbreaking losses to conference rivals Siena and Marist this past weekend, the men’s soccer team finds itsself sitting out another MAAC Championship.
Mathematically, the Broncs would have had to win both games to keep their chances alive but couldn’t overcome against a physical Saints team on Friday.
Rider fell behind to Siena 2-0 early in the first half, only to have two quality resurgences fall short.
Junior and captain Jim Bradley got the Broncs on the board 10 minutes into the second half on a beautiful 30-yard strike, assisted by sophomore Sal Lubrano. This obviously woke the Broncs up, and they started to catch some breaks. Just three minutes later, senior midfielder Nico Tramontana scored on a penalty kick, knotting the game up at two.
Rider once again fell behind, giving up another goal, only to make one more run at their conference rivals. Bradley scored his second goal of the contest, craftily assisted by Tramontana. With only 19 minutes remaining in the game, Rider had manufactured yet another equalizer.
The Saints, however, added their fourth and final goal just minutes later, sealing Rider’s fate and ending a long day of physical play. The 4-3 loss to Siena ruined any hopes Rider had at a MAAC Championship run.
Although Rider came up short in the outcome, the game was statistically even. Each team had 12 shots, but the Broncs edged the Saints in corner kicks, 6-1.
Head Coach Russ Fager was proud of his team’s effort, but said mistakes put them in a hole early.
“I think we did a very good job holding up against Siena,” he said. “We were able to create some quality opportunities, but we gave up some goals that should never have happened.”
Rider finished up the weekend with another conference game against Marist on Sunday. The two teams battled to a scoreless tie throughout the first 72 minutes of play, only to see a pair of late goals by Marist, resulting in a Red Fox victory.
The Broncs maintained possession of the ball for most of the game and manufactured plenty of shots, but couldn’t seem to find the back of the net. They outshot Marist 17-15, including 10 shots in the first half alone.
Freshman goalkeeper Matt Perrella had a solid day, saving seven shots. Perrella’s defense against a flurry of Marist attackers in the first half was what kept Rider in the game. The problem for the Broncs was their inability to produce consistently on offense.
“We didn’t have trouble finishing; we were just off the mark at some key times or on the mark but with a weak shot,” said Fager.
Fager was pleased with Rider’s effort Sunday, stating that they executed their game plan throughout the day but were unfortunate. Marist’s first goal came off a redirection in the box, which is “the kind of game soccer is,” according to Fager.
The loss pushed Rider’s record to 4-9 overall, with a 1-4 record within the MAAC. Fager and the players had nothing but positive words, however, noting the youth of the team.
“We will learn like we always do and with every game there is a positive progression, and that is the biggest thing we need, considering how young we are,” said Tramontana.
With 20 of the 27 roster players being either freshmen or sophomores, Fager has plenty of pieces to mold together for future success. The Broncs look to improve their record with a home game against Fairfield today at 3 p.m.
“We are right there in every MAAC game, and with a young team, you have to look at that as a positive,” Bradley said. “We see good things in the future for this program.”