Contention for first as soccer season winds down

By Carlos Toro

The men’s soccer team beat St. Peter’s 4-0 on Oct. 22 and Siena 6-1 on Oct. 25 to move into a tie for first place with Iona, marking the first time the team defeated Siena since 2004.

Head Coach Charlie Inverso was impressed with the Broncs’ (8-5-2, 5-3 MAAC) performance on the offensive side of the ball against the Saints.

“Siena has a lot of tall guys, so our goal was to break them down with a lot of short passes,” Inverso said. “I didn’t expect us to score first so quickly in the game.”

Freshman forward Jose Aguinaga scored in the second minute off of a break away and an assist from sophomore forward Zach Bond.

Rider doubled its lead in the 14th minute when junior forward Florian Valot’s header bounced off the turf and over the Siena goalkeeper’s head. It was his seventh goal of the season.

Despite falling down 2-0 early in the game, the Saints didn’t give up and started putting a lot of pressure on the Broncs’ defense. Siena eventually cut the lead to one when sophomore midfielder Uros Antic scored off of a cross. Siena seemed to be in a good position to potentially make a comeback, but in the 35th minute junior forward Tom Allen received his second yellow card of the game and was ejected, leaving Siena with 10 players on the field for the rest of the game.

Rider took advantage on the ensuing free kick taken by sophomore Christian Flath when junior back Sonimi Halliday headed the ball into the back of the net to give Rider a 3-1 lead. They scored again in the 43rd minute when junior forward Justin Veltri scored off of an assist by Valot. Offensively, the Broncs were efficient in the first half, scoring four times on six shots while they held Siena to only three shots.

Rider opened the second half with a 47th minute goal as sophomore back Warren Holmes headed the ball from a corner kick to make it 5-1 in favor of the Broncs. The final score came in the 72nd minute when Aguinaga scored off of a steal.

Walsh acknowledges the Broncs’ growth and maturity from last year to this year.

“This team is similar to last year’s,” Walsh said. “The difference between last year and this year is that all the freshmen that are playing are sophomores now. Everyone has an extra year under their belt. Guys like Zach have been playing well, Adrien Huss and Christian as well. It’s a big step forward for our team.”

Rider’s six goals are the most scored in a game this season and pushed the Broncs to second in the NCAA in goals per game with 2.53.

When they beat St. Peter’s (3-12, 1-6 MAAC) 4-0 on Oct. 22, Bond scored his first career hat trick in the 59th minute when he got a cross from Aguinaga and scored. He also scored in the 17th and 57th minutes.

Despite what seemed to be a blowout, St. Peter’s gave Rider a lot to handle. Sophomore goalkeeper David Pastuna had six saves in the game, five of them coming in the second half. St. Peter’s outshot Rider 18-4 for the game.

Rider will face off against Monmouth (6-3-5, 2-1-4 MAAC) on Oct. 29 and Marist (6-5-4, 2-5-4 MAAC) on Nov. 1 on the road to end the regular season.

With two conference games left in the regular season, Inverso believes they are in a good position to compete in the MAAC tournament and potentially host a playoff game.

“We just have to keep winning,” Inverso said. “We want to do our best and maybe, try and get a home playoff game and maybe even get a bye [in the MAAC tournament] if we can.”

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