By Thomas Regan
The men’s soccer team continued to excel in front of its home crowd by winning its contest at Ben Cohen Field in a 3-0 victory over Fairfield on Oct. 1 to open up the MAAC season. However, on Oct. 4 the Broncs’ run of success at home came to an end, as the team was defeated 1-0 by Iona.
Rider (4-2-2, 1-0 MAAC) entered the week looking to beat Fairfield for the first time since 2004. In order to secure a victory, the Broncs would need to score on the Stags (3-3-2, 0-1 MAAC), who hadn’t allowed a goal in their last 200 minutes played.
Despite outshooting Fairfield in the first period, Rider was unable to put any of its four shots on goal. However, sophomore goalkeeper David Pastuna was able to keep the game scoreless by recording two saves to end the opening half.
Just under 15 minutes into the second half, the Broncs saw shots by sophomore midfielder Adrien Huss and senior midfielder Ryan Walsh blocked, before freshman forward Jose Aguinaga scored his first goal of the season to push Rider out in front 1-0.
Ten minutes later, the Broncs padded their lead with a goal by Huss, his first of the season, to make the contest 2-0.
In the 86th minute, Fairfield’s sophomore midfielder Ben Whitcomb received a yellow card for a foul on sophomore forward Christian Flath, affording an opportunity for a penalty kick for Rider’s leading scorer. Flath was able to take advantage, scoring his sixth goal of the season to give the Broncs a 3-0 lead that wouldn’t be relinquished for the remainder of the game.
Pastuna credits Rider’s success against the Stags to the intensity the team brought right from the start of the game, adding that the Broncs match up well against Fairfield.
“We came out one hundred miles an hour, we didn’t save ourselves, we were passing and moving, you know, one touches, two touches, we never just tried to dribble,” Pastuna said. “Fairfield is a big team, they are not really a possession-type team and that’s why we were able to play our game.”
The Broncs continued in-conference play as they hosted Iona on Oct. 4, looking to extend their recent dominance at Ben Cohen field.
Both the Broncs and the Gaels (5-3-2, 2-0 MAAC) applied pressure in the first half as both teams took eight shots each. However, no shot was able to find the back of the net, as the opening half ended 0-0.
Rider came out of the half firing, taking four unanswered shots in the first seven minutes. However, the Broncs were unable to capitalize on any of their opportunities, leading to a shift in momentum that saw the Gaels take three shots, before scoring on the fourth to take a 1-0 lead and silencing the Rider crowd.
The Broncs’ best chance to tie the game was in the 74th minute, when the team was able to keep the ball in enemy territory and create multiple scoring chances, all of which ended with two saves by Iona’s freshman goalkeeper Julian Petrello. After Rider’s failed attempts, the team was unable to generate many other opportunities and ultimately lost, 1-0.
Pastuna, who had a career-high 10 saves, believes the Broncs were unsuccessful in taking advantage of the openings they had.
“We had so many opportunities, we were obviously beating them to every ball in the air,” Pastuna said. “We had five or six opportunities in the air where we should have capitalized. At this level, when a team is pressing us like Iona was, we need to score the goal so we can put them under.”
Even after being shut out by Iona, the Broncs rank 10th in the NCAA Division I with 2.22 goals per game. Head Coach Charlie Inverso was enthusiastic after the tough loss, as he thinks his players are beginning to put the team on the map.
“I thought we played a pretty decent game,” Inverso said. “It’s just a really good team. This was a team that tied UConn, tied Boston College.
“But I think we have a really good team and I think people are starting to recognize it now.”
Rider will have to continue conference play on the road with games against Canisius on Oct. 8 and Quinnipiac on Oct. 11.
“Two tough teams and two tough places to play,” Inverso said. “Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. We have to regroup and get the business done.”