By Austin Ferguson
The men’s soccer team began Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play undefeated with a scoreless draw against Fairfield on Oct. 2 and a 3-1 victory over Canisius on Oct. 5.
The Broncs traveled to Connecticut to take on Fairfield on Oct. 2. Fairfield began the season on top of the MAAC preseason poll.
Rider took a commanding shot lead over Fairfield in the first half and outnumbered the Stags’ shots, 7-3. Five of the Broncs’ first half shots were on goal, though they were all saved by Fairfield goalkeeper Gordon Botterill.
On the defensive side of things, Rider limited Fairfield to two shots on goal in the first half, both of which were saved by junior goalkeeper Pablo Gatinois.
Rider kept a similar shot pace in the second half and put up six shots in the second 45 minutes. The Broncs were only able to get two of those shots on goal, which were saved by Botterill.
Fairfield increased its shot output, putting up eight shots in the second half. The Stags made a late-game push and put up two shots in the last two minutes of the game. Gatinois saved both shots to keep the game scoreless and sent it to overtime.
Both overtime periods came and went quietly, as the teams combined for five shots in the final 30 minutes off the match. The Broncs put up two shots, neither of which were on goal. Fairfield put three shots — all on goal — that were saved by Gatinois to cement the 0-0 draw.
The Broncs’ match with Fairfield was littered with bookings as six yellow cards were shown throughout the game. Four of those cards went toward Rider players.
Following the tie, Rider came home to Ben Cohen Field to take on Canisius. The Broncs entered the match having won their last two matchups against Canisius.
The action picked up in the 27th minute as Matthew Spangler scored for Canisius to give them a 1-0 lead. Rider struck back before the end of the half; senior back Sylvain Coco netted a header off of assists from senior forward Clement Bourret and graduate student midfielder Juan Carlos Garcia Gomez to even the game at one.
The Broncs completed the rest of the game’s scoring in the second half. In the 70th minute, Bourret cashed in on redshirt junior forward Pablo DeCastro and senior midfielder Aaron Robinson assists to push Rider ahead, 2-1.
Coco padded the lead in the 81st minute after he headed a corner from Bourret and secured the Broncs’ victory, 3-1.
Despite physical play against Canisius, the referees kept their whistles in their pockets, only showing two yellow cards throughout the match, which both went against Canisius. Head Coach Charlie Inverso saw the physical play as an advantage for Rider.
“[The team] was scrappy tonight,” Inverso said. “I’ve seen this happen a thousand times where you have a lot of possession, a lot of flow and you turn around and you’re down, 1-0. I thought getting that one right before halftime was huge.”
Inverso gave a lot of credit to his coaching staff for Rider’s ability to pull away in the late stages of the game.
“They came up with some great ideas in the second half and the adjustments that we made at halftime was the big difference,” said Inverso.
Coco’s pair of goals were his first two of the season and he was excited about his contributions to the team.
“I’ve had a lot of problems with injuries, I’m happy to help the team. It was important for us to win tonight, so I’m very happy to score tonight,” said Coco.
Inverso also gave credit to the team’s defense in its victory over Canisius.
“These guys sat back and played with a lot of defenders behind the ball,” Inverso said. “They did it well and that’s hard to break down.”
Inverso highlighted other defensive adjustments to their recent success as well.
“[Graduate student midfielder] Sam Carter is holding his spot better in the midfield and we don’t have both outside backs going forward at the same time, which really hurt us in pre-conference,” said Inverso.
Coco, who manned the backfield with fellow countryman Emmanuel Kouma, cited communication as a key to defensive success.
“We work hard together,” Coco said. “We have a lot of French guys in the back, so the communication is pretty easy.”
Coco’s defensive work earned him MAAC Defensive Player of the Week honors on Oct. 7.
The Broncs hit the road on Oct. 9 to take on Saint Peter’s at 3 p.m. A win for the Broncs would even their all-time series with the Peacocks, 6-6-1. Rider then comes back home to take on Monmouth, which it has defeated in the last two matchups, on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m.
Rider’s 1-0-1 record put it in third place in the MAAC standings.
Above it are Manhattan and Niagara, which are each tied for first with a 2-0 record.
Following the Broncs in the standings are Iona with a 1-0 record.
Saint Peter’s, Siena and Quinnipiac are tied for fifth with a 1-1 record.
Fairfield clocks in at eighth with an 0-1-1 record.
Marist sits at ninth with an 0-1 record.
Canisius and Monmouth are tied for last, both with 0-2 records.