By Stephen Neukam
An exciting night of competition was on tap for the men’s soccer team when it traveled to Teaneck to take on No. 21 Fairleigh Dickinson. The Broncs, who walked into the contest with a 4-2 record, were looking to pick up their first win against a nationally ranked opponent in Head Coach Charlie Inverso’s seven-year tenure.
The game saw its first turn of events within 15 minutes of the opening whistle.
After winning a penalty decision, Fairleigh Dickinson freshman forward Jacob Labovitz stepped to the penalty spot to try to put the Knights ahead early in the game. Labovitz struck the ball from the spot, but Bronc senior keeper David Pastuna was up to the challenge and saved the ball from hitting the back of the net.
This was vital, as Rider would capitalize on the Knights’ missed opportunity and take the lead just eight minutes later. Following a blocked shot off the foot of freshman defender Sergio Aguinaga, redshirt freshman midfielder Mathis Catanzaro pounced and put the rebound into the goal, giving the Broncs a 1-0 advantage in the 20th minute of the game and netting his second goal of the season.
Rider continued to press after taking the lead, with a shot from freshman forward Pablo DeCastro being saved in the 25th minute, and an attempt by junior midfielder Santiago Castro being sent over the goal soon after. The Broncs would take the lead into halftime, leaving the score 1-0 going into the break.
Rider opened the second half even more aggressively than the first, peppering the Fairleigh Dickinson box with three corners and two shots in the opening 10 minutes. This trend of power from the Bronc attack was prominent throughout the night, as Rider finished the game with 18 total shots. Rider, still leading the match 1-0, would score an almost identical goal as the first. In the 68th minute, sophomore forward Clement Bourret stung a shot off of the Knights’ crossbar, and DeCastro buried his rebounding shot to pick up his third goal of the season, his first in four games.
Labovitz made the Broncs hold their breath as he latched onto freshman forward Josh Shupak’s cross, heading the ball in to break Pastuna’s shutout in the 88th minute, bringing the score to 2-1. It was an anxious final for Rider, who managed to see out the last two minutes and bring the game to an end, winning the match 2-1.
“I still think we have to put together longer stretches of playing good soccer,” said Inverso following the victory. “But to be 5-2 with two overtime wins shows good character.”
Inverso also cited the team’s performances away from home as important, saying, “One of the aspects of our team culture that we try to preach is winning games on the road.”
The Broncs field a young team of mostly freshmen and sophomores, with veteran players such as senior forwards Elliot Otmani and Jose Aguinaga taking leadership roles.
When asked about the influence of these veterans, sophomore midfielder Emmanuel Kouma stated, “We have three really good captains that we can follow every time. They won two championships and they know what they’re talking about. We learn every day with them because of their advice and experiences. But we’re a young team and we all have responsibilities.”
The Broncs schedule has excitement written all over it, with MAAC action kicking off on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. against Monmouth at Ben Cohen Field. The home game is the annual “Dorm Wars” game, where the loudest dorm will win a prize.