By Matthew LoPuzzo
In the two games following its 2-2 stalemate with Marist on Oct. 22, Rider men’s soccer was impressively consistent, posting two more draws of identical scores against Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) rivals Siena and Saint Peter’s.
The pair of ties placed the Broncs at ninth in the conference with a 2-8-6 record, just one point behind Marist for the final spot in the MAAC Tournament.
‘Disappointed with the result’
The Broncs, still grasping for their chance at the playoffs needed to start winning games instantly, but just couldn’t break the mold Wednesday afternoon. Going up against a Siena team who was fighting to keep their place in the playoffs and had been a pest to all of the top teams in the MAAC, this game definitely showed what team this Broncs team was made of.
“We were tired and sluggish coming out to start the match,” Head Coach Charlie Inverso said of the 2-2 draw.
It didn’t take long for Siena to find the scoresheet, when Saints midfielder Zach Gardner buried the ball into the back of the Rider net in the 16th minute.
The Broncs, having found ways to answer back recently, did so again this time when senior defender Lenny Cidolit scored on a masterful cross by junior midfielder Adel Al-Masude.
“This team has guts. Everyone has counted us out except us,” Inverso said.
With time running short in the first half, an almost costly penalty in the box was saved by graduate student goalkeeper Guillaume Veinante in the 39th minute to keep the Broncs even at halftime.
The Broncs performed completely opposite from the first half and started strong with a couple of chances early, but both defensives were holding their ground not conceding anything.
But in the 77th minute, Cidolit found the back of the net again after freshman midfielder Momo Diop and junior forward Babacar Diene were playing a little game of give and go to get Diene to the goal line to cross to Cidolit.
Siena did their best Broncs impression by battling back themselves with four minutes remaining, tying the game courtesy of sophomore midfielder Jacob Sandun Arachchige-Jensen.
“I think we were in a good position coming into the last minutes of the game, and we were pretty confident since we had been solid and focused during the whole second half,” Veinante said. “It makes this late goal very frustrating since we were in control.”
The tie leaves Rider at 2-8-5 but hopes are still high amongst the locker room.
“Their (seniors) message is clear, it is their last opportunity to get into a championship battle, and we must give everything to reach this goal,” said Veinante.
Cidolit, despite scoring twice, wasn’t happy with the game’s outcome.
“I like to project myself towards the attack and it paid off yesterday,” the senior said. “But to be honest these two goals are secondary, I am very disappointed with the result.”
No miracle in Jersey City
The Broncs, against another lower seeded team in the Saint Peter’s Peacocks, had the chance to make that first step towards the playoffs but yet again ended in another 2-2 tie.
The Broncs have seen a major step down in goal scoring going from the best goal scoring team in the MAAC last season to 8th this season. Inverso attributes that to the absence of reigning MAAC Offensive Player of the Year graduate student forward Zaki Alibou.
“I have to think that a lot of those ties would have been wins if he were playing,” said Inverso.
The continued absence of Alibou forced Coach Inverso’s hand and has had the team play a different style that they’re not used to. But someone who’s stepped up big in that role has been junior midfielder Adel Al Masude who scored just four minutes into the match.
“Everybody worked hard during the game” said Al Masude, and that was very relevant by the Broncs pressure early.
Then a flurry of Peacocks offense in the later half of the first half found the back net on a shot by forward Matt Hoyt after the Peacocks tried to put the ball past Guillaume Veinante two times.
The Broncs and Peacocks being two of the lowest goal scoring teams in the MAAC, the offense in the 1st half was very stagnant heading into the half.
The offense for the Broncs put two of their 15 shots on net in the first ten minutes of the 2nd half and things were looking bright for the Broncs. But the Broncs defense gave the ball right to the Peacocks in front of their own net that was finished off by freshman forward Tim Strele to give Saint Peter’s a lead.
Junior forward Babacar Diene just missed the equalizer on a header that got called back by a hand ball which the Broncs bench wasn’t too pleasant about.
“We did not give up, we fought until the end by continuing to create opportunities,” said Al Masude about the late opportunities this Broncs team had to break open the game.
The equalizer for the Broncs was an 89′ minute penalty kick by senior back Guillaume Sarrabayrouse but it was a little too late for the Broncs having to win this game to even have a chance at the playoffs.
“We are going all out to win against Canisius. We will play the guys that can help us win. It is an important game for many reasons.” And one of those reasons for Coach Inverso is the return of Rider soccer alumni Andrew Crawford who was a former captain of the Broncs. “I love the guy but I want to beat him badly!” Going against a 0-6-3 Canisius team is gonna be a great way to say goodbye to the seniors and a good morale boost for the players coming back.