By Carlos Toro
The men’s soccer team continued its dominance at home with two more conference wins this past week.
The Broncs (10-3-2, 5-1-2 MAAC) defeated Iona on Oct. 19 and Fairfield on Oct. 22 to push their undefeated home record to 6-0 overall for the season. The Broncs are undefeated in the past five games, with a tie.
Head Coach Charlie Inverso said the game against Fairfield was “a good character win” and said the Senior Day festivities made the victory even more special.
“It was great because I owe a lot to this senior class,” Inverso said. “I’m just so proud of all 13 of them. They’re really good guys. I’m glad that we could pull this win out on Senior Day.”
When Rider hosted Iona (4-11, 3-4 MAAC), the Broncs got on the board early thanks to junior forward Elliott Otmani’s goal from 15 yards out in the 12th minute of the game.
Iona responded a little more than 20 minutes later when Gaels sophomore forward Daniel Huertas scored the equalizer.
After the first half ended, Rider junior midfielder Jose Aguinaga won the game with a penalty kick goal — his third penalty goal in the last two games. Aguinaga scored Rider’s two goals on penalty kicks in the come-from-behind victory against Marist on Oct. 15, and he scored the game-winner in the 70th minute.
The Broncs dominated the Gaels in terms of shots, 18-8. Senior goalkeeper Ryan Baird made three saves, while Iona’s Julian Petrello made four.
Then the Broncs had to deal with Fairfield (5-7-2, 3-4 MAAC), who entered the game fifth in the MAAC standings and desperate for a win to qualify for the post-season.
The game itself was at a standstill for the majority of the contest, with neither defense letting up even once. Fairfield brought a lot of offensive pressure on Rider, out-shooting the Broncs 6-4 in the first half. But Baird helped his team with clutch saves, not allowing the Stags to score.
Rider remained patient throughout the second half, before it found an opportunity in the closing minutes of the game. Senior forward Zach Bond came off the bench and scored in the 86th minute of the game to give Rider the 1-0 win.
The game was not over after the goal, however. Fairfield had one last opportunity to score about a minute after the goal when Fairfield junior forward Ben Wignall shot the ball at close range toward Baird and the senior goalkeeper managed to deflect the shot away as the crowd of nearly 1,000 spectators stood up and cheered wildly for Baird.
Inverso was initially convinced that the shot was going in.
“That save at the end, not only was it a beautiful save, it was a clutch save,” Inverso said.
Rider continued running down the clock and won the game to give the Broncs its first three-game win streak since the team won its first four games this season. The win also gave the team a 4-0-1 record in its last five games, and 6-1-2 in its last nine.
Rider now enters the last week of the regular season at second place in the MAAC. The team has a chance to win the regular-season title, but does need other teams to lose. Last year, the team entered the MAAC Championships in Orlando as the No. 2 seed, then proceeded to defeat top-seeded and nationally-ranked Monmouth in the tournament final. It was Rider’s first conference title and NCAA bid since 1998.
The Broncs go on the road against Quinnipiac on Oct. 29 and have one more home game before the MAAC Tournament, against Saint Peter’s on Nov. 2.