By Trey Wright
After a major coaching change highlighted Rider men’s soccer’s offseason, a new era began, winning two of their first three matches of the season, all while picking up new Head Coach Chad Duernberger’s first pair of victories in the process.
“Our message to the players has been that we have to find ways to score goals in different ways,” said Duernberger, who replaced previous Head Coach Charlie Inverso over the summer. “This includes buildup play, transition play and set pieces in order for us to be the best team we can be.”
After falling to Seton Hall 1-0 in the season opener on Aug 24, but bouncing back with a 2-0 shutout over Saint Joseph’s on Aug 28, the squad’s next stop was Sacred Heart for a matchup with the Pioneers, crossing the halfway point through Rider’s four-game road trip to open the 2023 campaign.
The action kicked off in the eighth minute, when a Pioneer corner kick led to a pair of scoring chances, but sophomore goaltender Adam Salama made key saves on both opportunities, the initial save being a diving block on the goal line to keep the game scoreless.
“After the first game I sat down with the coaches to go over both the good and bad from our previous game to make sure I improve for the next one,” said Salama.
Salama was a big part of the Bronc’s defensive effort in the first half, with the only three shots on goal coming from Sacred Heart. A close call came at the nineteenth minute mark, when a laser from outside the eighteen ricochetted off the crossbar.
Rider had issues entering the Pioneers’ side of the pitch, having to wait until the 29th minute to record their first shot on the Sacred Heart keeper, entering the half deadlocked at 0-0.
“The boys were very frustrated at halftime. I simply told them to smile, stay positive,” said Duernberger. “We are going to have games that don’t go the way we hoped, I think we showed maturity tonight in finding a way to win when the game wasn’t going our way.”
The peptalk paid off almost immediately, as less than three minutes into the second half, freshman Saad Chaouki sent a beautiful corner into the box, where graduate student Ethan Shaw headed the shot into the net to put the Broncs on the board.
The duo struck again in the 68th, with Shaw and Chaouki copy-pasting the connection from 21 minutes prior, another header off another corner to extend the Rider lead.
“I would love to keep getting on the score sheet from inside the box and contribute to our team’s success.” said Shaw, the St. John’s graduate who transferred to Rider after four years with the Red Storm’s program. “We have great players that can deliver a perfect ball and they are just as important to the win we got tonight as I am.”
Rider held onto the shutout until the 88th minute, before Sacred Heart finally responded with a minute to go in the match. The Broncs were able to hold on though, topping Sacred Heart 2-1, the first pair of back-to-back wins for the team since the 2021 playoffs.
“We simply try to put the players in the best position possible to be successful both individually and collectively under our core values of attitude, work ethic, competition & discipline,” said Duernberger. “I love these guys. They buy into believing in our brotherhood and the representation of doing it for Rider University is what I’m most proud of.”
The match was not without a loss however, as Zaki Alibou was awarded a red card in the dying minutes of the match, being ineligible to play in the next.
The Broncs round out their road trip against NJIT on Sept. 8, before making their debut at Ben Cohen Field on Sept. 11 against UPenn.