By Carlos Toro
The Broncs continued their conference winning streak after defeating Niagara and Manhattan on Oct. 14 and Oct. 17, respectively.
Rider (9-4-1, 4-2-1 MAAC) also got some good news with junior midfielder Christian Flath and senior forward Florian Valot returning from injuries. They each scored a goal in their first game back against Manhattan.
The two wins place Rider in third place of the MAAC standings and they have not lost a conference game in their last five matches.
Head Coach Charlie Inverso believes that the turnaround has come from the players finally finding the style they have been seeking since the start of MAAC play.
“The biggest difference in our team over the last five games is that we are not only following the game plan, but we are following the principles of what we think is the right way for Rider to play soccer,” Inverso said.
The win at Niagara (1-11-3, 0-5-1 MAAC) began with Rider’s stout offense scoring on a corner kick in the fifth minute of the game. Senior back Sonimi Halliday’s header was assisted by junior midfielder Adrien Huss and sophomore forward Jose Aguinaga, who was named the MAAC Player of the Week for his recent three-goal week.
Despite outshooting the Broncs 6-3 in the first half, the Purple Eagles did not have a single shot on target and Rider came into halftime with a 1-0 lead.
The second half also saw Rider shutting down Niagara thanks to sophomore forward Elliot Otmani’s goal in the 61st minute. After Otmani received a pass from Aguinaga, Otmani beat Niagara goalkeeper Colin Hanely to double the Broncs’ lead and seal the victory.
Rider senior goalkeeper Ryan Baird had a big game against the Purple Eagles, making seven saves to get the clean sheet.
The game against Manhattan (2-8-1, 2-4 MAAC) saw the returns of Valot and Flath from injury and it took them just one game to help the Broncs win.
Valot scored the opening goal at the 58th minute thanks to Aguinaga’s assist. Playing in front of his family, who travelled all the way from Europe, Valot was excited to finally be back on the pitch.
“It’s a really good feeling,” Valot said. “The last couple of weeks have been very long and frustrating because of that injury. Even though I was not fit and not totally recovered, it was awesome to play and score in front of my family who came from France to visit me.”
The Jaspers tied the game 17 minutes later when senior midfielder Alex Shackley scored his second goal of the season.
That was the only score that they managed to get for the game as Aguinaga scored his fifth goal of the season on a header in the 81st minute to retake the lead.
Flath had a chance to contribute in his first game back from injury by scoring the third Rider goal in the game on an 18-yard shot in the 85th minute to give the Broncs a 3-1 victory.
Flath was ecstatic to get back on the turf.
“Of course it is good to be back on the field and get some minutes, but I am not at 100 percent right now and I really need to get there again before Florida,” Flath said. “Scoring a goal is always great but, more importantly, we won and that is what matters.”
The Broncs go on the road to face Fairfield (4-4-5, 3-2-1 MAAC) as Rider continues to climb through the MAAC standings and possibly get a good seed in the MAAC tournament. Aguinaga said the team is proud of what they have accomplished, but knows there is still a lot of work left to be done.
“I think we are now more confident,” Aguinaga said. “We had really good wins against big teams in our conference and we should use that confidence in order to keep the level we have now, but we haven’t done anything yet. We still need to work hard in order to end in a good position by the end of the conference.”