By Benjamin Shinault and Matthew LoPuzzo
In its pair of games, Rider men’s soccer snapped a two-game losing streak and dowsed a 19-day, scoreless dry spell to improve to 2-6-2 on the season.
The Broncs leapt out of the loss-column on Oct. 5 with a 0-0 tie against Iona, before claiming a 3-2 victory in the waning minutes of their Oct. 8 match with Fairfield.
‘I am proud of how we competed’
Even with the return of senior back Guillaume Sarrabayrouse to the Broncs starting lineup, Rider still could not rummage for a win. On a rainy afternoon, the Broncs hopped on the bus to New Rochelle, New York to face the Iona Gaels. Still without Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) offensive player of the year Zaki Alibou, the Broncs continued to struggle with their attack as they ended with a draw to Iona.
“When you get a shutout you would have to say the defense played well,” said Head Coach Charlie Inverso.
The defense was unquestionably present for the game on Wednesday as the Broncs only allowed five shots on goal. The same could be said for the Gaels as they only allowed one shot on goal and six shots in total. It’s safe to assume that the Broncs have desperately missed the offensive power Alibou provides.
“There is no timeline on Zaki’s return but we have to keep moving on,” said Inverso.
With the tie, the Broncs were still searching for their first goal since Sept. 18 when they scored twice against the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).
“The positive was that despite having Iona down our end in the first 20 minutes, we held off and came away with a point,” said Inverso.
In the 30th minute of Wednesday’s game, Sarrabayrouse had a shot at getting one by Iona goalkeeper Juan Alfaro Monge, but the former MAAC defensive player of the week knocked it out to keep the match scoreless.
Later on, sophomore midfielder Jack McGeechan came close to scoring in the 62nd, getting a shot off just outside of the 18-yard box, but it sailed too high and the cursed sound of the crossbar rang throughout Mazzella Field.
Overall, this type of hard fought game by the Broncs left hope for Inverso about where the team is headed.
“This program has always competed and played hard which was why last Wednesday versus Manhattan was such a disappointment,” asserted Inverso. “Record wise we are definitely struggling, but except for one match, I am proud of how we competed.”
A temporary turnaround
Coming into the game at 1-6-2, the Broncs were on the ropes and grasping for any type of momentum heading into a tough stretch of conference play. Going up against a struggling Fairfield team, the Broncs had a chance to finally get on the right foot. The Broncs, courtesy of junior midfielder Adel Al Masude’s three-assist masterclass, finally grabbed its first conference play win on Oct. 8.
“The win turned our season around temporarily, but that feeling only lasts for 24 hours. Now we have to play the remaining games as if the season is on the line each time we go out,” said Inverso.
The Broncs came out hot by finding the back of the net early when senior midfielder Guillaume Sarrabayrouse scored off a pretty feed by Al Masude, which gave the Broncs their first lead in conference play.
“I’m happy to get my teammates involved to win this game because at the end, it’s the win that matters,” Al Masude shared about his three assist game.
Despite the Broncs still missing Alibou on offense, Al Masude was able to take charge and help the team get the victory.
“[Alibou] was the offensive player of the year for a reason. Now as a guy who played last season, it is sure that I did my best to step up as a leader and to show the way,” said Al Masude.
This showed up in the 29th minute when senior back Lenny Cidolit scored on a header from a dime from Al Masude.
The game got chippy during the second half, with both teams having a combined five yellow cards.
Despite having a two goal lead, the Stags were able to claw their way back into it.
“The old cliche about 2-0 leads being tough to hold on still holds true,” said Inverso.
Inverso’s statement held true when Fairfield’s Alex Oliveria scored two goals in the 57th and 77th minute to knot things up at two apiece.
With four minutes left, the Broncs found themselves with a corner kick and graduate student back Regis Dulck sealed the game with a header courtesy Al Masude, bringing him to three assists on the night.
The Broncs will return home on Oct. 12 to take on Quinnipiac for a chance to jump up more in the MAAC standings with hopes of playoffs still in the distance.