Broncs show ‘a lot of heart’ in two win week

By Jacob Tiger

Going into the weekend, the Rider men’s soccer team was 2-2-1 in conference play and 5-5-2 overall; almost impressively average on paper.

With back-to-back conference games standing in their way, the Broncs had a chance to prove that they were more than average, and they seized that opportunity.

Rider scored eight total goals to take down both Fairfield and Canisius, improving to 7-5-2 and ascending to third in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) standings.

‘Tremendous team spirit’

On Oct. 20, the Broncs took on the Fairfield Stags in what was arguably their biggest game yet.

In a display of heart and confidence, Rider defeated Fairfield by a score of 4-3, getting a massive comeback win against a strong conference rival.

“I think what we have is tremendous team spirit, and it showed today. Two games in a row we went down 2-0 and fought back, and that’s a lot of character,” said Head Coach Charlie Inverso. “More than anything, it was a gut win tonight. Guys dug in deep, a lot of heart, and I’m really proud of ‘em.”

Even before kickoff, the energy was high at a Ben Cohen Field that was packed with fans pounding their feet on the metal bleachers and cheering for a Rider team that looked focused and determined.

Despite their early eagerness, the Broncs were outplayed in the first half, going down 2-0.

Fairfield’s first goal came off of a penalty kick in the 38th minute, and their second was the result of a play in the 42nd minute where the Stags seemingly jogged right through the Rider defense.

“We give up goals in bunches, and that’s been our Achilles heel all year, but we can score,” said Inverso. 

The Broncs certainly can score, as their offense kicked it into overdrive in the second half, ripping off four unanswered goals.

Graduate student midfielder Taner Bay scored the first goal when Rider got a penalty kick of its own in just the third minute of the second half. 

Then, Rider’s shining star, senior forward Zaki Alibou, notched his ninth goal of the season in the 60th minute off of a perfectly placed shot.

“There’s never a dull moment with Zaki. He scored a majestic goal tonight,” said Inverso.

With the goal, Alibou is tied for the lead in goals in the MAAC this season. He credits his skills and work ethic to his success. 

“Hard work, patience and [I] give everything to win. The ball comes to me and I try hard to score,” said Alibou.

Alibou was unable to play at his usual level in the first half, being hampered by a minor groin injury he suffered, but eventually, his competitive nature was enough to get himself back in the game.

“ It affected [me] in the first half, but if you want to win you don’t feel it as much. I think tomorrow and tonight I’m going to feel it … hopefully, I’m gonna be there in the next game,” said Alibou of his injury.

Rider’s third goal came in the 62nd minute courtesy of graduate student back Sergio Aguinaga, who later set up the fourth goal for senior back Jeremy Peterson with a beautiful cross.

Fairfield scored once more in the 82nd minute, but the Broncs were able to hang on to their lead, securing a crucial victory.

“We know that we were in a tough position in this league … right now every game is a final,” said Aguinaga.

Not only did the Broncs win, but they also demonstrated a considerable amount of resilience and adaptability, both of which are intangible, invaluable assets that can be hard to come by.

“More than anything I wanna give a shout-out to the staff. I think our assistant coaches came up with a great plan at halftime. Give them full credit for the turn-around,” said Inverso.

All-around dominance

After a huge win against the Stags, the Broncs were right back at it on Oct. 23, facing the then 1-10-2 Canisius Griffins.

Oozing with confidence after their glorious comeback, Rider had no problem handling the Griffs, winning by a score of 4-1.

Junior midfielder Matt Araujo scored first for the Broncs in the 20th minute, netting his first goal of the season.

Aguinaga then joined in 15 minutes later by scoring his fourth of the season, continuing a recent hot streak in which he has scored a goal in each of Rider’s last three matches. 

In the 55th minute, the Griffs finally got on the board, but junior back Lenny Cidolit responded six minutes later by scoring his third goal of the season.

Last but certainly not least, Alibou got in on the action in the 81st minute, shooting the ball from the end line and squeezing it into an extremely small window for the goal.

The goal was Alibou’s 10th of the season and was also his sixth goal in six games.

Graduate student goalkeeper Pablo Gatinois was also on point and easily had his best game of the season, totaling seven saves overall and rejecting a penalty kick that could’ve got Canisius back in the game.

A great win for the Broncs, as they take another win in the MAAC and avoid what could have easily been a trap game.

Rider, with yet another chance to prove themselves, stares down a daunting pair of must-win conference games against Iona on Oct. 27 and Siena on Oct. 30.

The Broncs will surely look to prove that their recent success is more than just a mere hot streak.

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