By Daniel Marley
The men’s soccer team picked up its first win of the season against NJIT (2-5) by a score of 3-1 over the weekend before losing to Army (1-7) 2-0 on Wednesday.
“We played very good out there,” said Head Coach Russ Fager. “We showed a lot of energy and were able to pick up our emotional level of play.”
On Saturday, the Broncs (1-7) solved some of their scoring dilemmas with a two-goal victory over the NJIT Highlanders. Scoring for the team were sophomores Ryan Fitzgerald, Sam Kotowski and substitute Dan Friga.
The sophomore threesome has been Rider’s most consistent performers on the offensive side of the ball. Fitzgerald is second on the team in shots (9) and goals (1) and is also tied for second in points (2). Kotowski ranks atop the team in goals (2) and points (4) and Friga leads the Broncs in shots (11) and shots on goal (5).
The team was outshot 9-4 but that did not matter on the scoreboard.
“In that game we showed a lot of positive energy,” said Fager. “Everyone is trying very hard to adapt to our new style of play.”
The defense and goaltending stepped up to handle the opposition as well. It was Rider sophomore goalkeeper Matt Perrella who helped keep his team in the game, blocking eight of nine shots on goal.
“It was a sign of relief that we were able to get over that first win hump,” Perrella said. “We’re still demanding much from each other and now expect to get more results from our upcoming games.”
He scored his first collegiate goal at 21:12 of the first half.
“I have always been used to scoring goals on the high school level,” Fitzgerald said. “But not until my seventh game at Rider sophomore year did I score on the collegiate level. I was excited and relieved, relieved because the first one is always the hardest to break the ice.”
Against the Golden Knights on Wednesday, the Broncs were shut out again for the fifth time of the season in the 2-0 defeat.
The Broncs had trouble putting the ball behind Army goalkeeper Ryan Currens. Of the nine shots they attempted, only three were on goal.
“We need to improve by keeping ourselves in the game,” Fager said. “We need to capitalize on the opposition by making plays off their mistakes and outworking their defense.”
To fix these troubles, Coach Fager developed a new strategy.
“On defense we established an eight-player system with four midfielders and four defensemen,” Fager said. “It has proven to be effective for our game plan so far.”
Perrella had a good game in the net, stopping six of eight shots on goal. The two goals he allowed were off a corner kick in the first half and a 40-yard shot that was deflected into the net in the second half.
“I felt like I’ve played a good game,” Perrella said. “But there are a lot of things that I need to work on if I want to progress as a player.”
Rider has not fared well in the win column or the statistical column.
The Broncs rank in the lower half of the majority of stat categories within the conference and have given up the most goals and committed the most fouls in the MAAC.
Despite the struggles so far this season, the Broncs have shown a lot of positive energy.
“It is important that fans come out and watch our games,” Fager said. “We need that and support to keep our positive energy flowing.”
The men’s soccer team has dropped seven of its first eight contests with 10 games remaining in the regular season. The Broncs’ next game will be on Saturday at George Washington (1-7).
After George Washington, Rider begins conference games, with five of the first seven at home before ending conference play with two on the road.