By Brandon Ferris
The men’s soccer team has quickly shown its ready to defend its MAAC crown.
Off to an undefeated start, Rider has beaten Villanova, La Salle and NJIT— all on the road.
The Broncs defeated the Wildcats with a solid 2-1 win in overtime. Rider (3-0) was able to score two unanswered goals and notch a come-from-behind victory to start its season off strong.
After a scoreless first half at Higgins Soccer Complex, the Broncs went into halftime with confidence, even though three-time All-MAAC selection senior midfielder Christian Flath received a yellow card 23 minutes into the first game. But, a few minutes into the second half, the Broncs surrendered their first goal of the season and saw themselves down 1-0 after a penalty kick goal.
In the 58th minute, Rider was able to tie the game up with a goal of its own, scored by a member of the 2015 MAAC Championship All-Tournament team, senior midfielder Adrien Huss. Junior forward Jose Aguinaga assisted Huss on the game-tying goal.
After a solid pass from Aguinaga, Huss was able to take it on the right side and score his first goal of the season, notching his 17th career point. This assist should come as no surprise as Aguinaga had nine of them last year and led the MAAC in points and assists.
After neither team could get another ball past the keeper, Rider and Villanova headed into overtime. At 8:58 into overtime, Flath won the game for the Broncs with a free kick from 25 yards out. His golden goal was his first goal of the young season and his 24th career goal. Flath is no stranger to winning the game for the Broncs, as this was the fourth game-winning goal of his career.
Senior goalkeeper Ryan Baird recorded three saves in the game; all of them came in the first half as opposed to the Villanova keeper who needed to make seven saves. Baird was able to receive support from the whole team in regulation and overtime to keep his saves at a minimum and he knew that they would pull out the win as well.
“I trust that our team will create chances and have opportunities to put the game away,” said Baird. “In OT, the only thing going through my mind is that if I do my job and keep the ball out of the net, we will win.”
After the win at Villanova, the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) ranked Rider No. 2 in the Northeast region, behind only Colgate. The Broncs also received one vote for the national top 25.
“Honestly, the number doesn’t matter to me or anyone else really on the team,” Baird said. “We know that none of that matters right now and if we take each game one by one, we will be where we want by the end of the season.”
Riding their wave of momentum, the Broncs traveled to La Salle on Sept. 2 and soundly beat the Explorers 3-0.
Flath, who had two assists in the game, both coming off corner kicks, led the Broncs to a solid victory.
Rider had a total of six corner kicks in the game, but only two of them led to goals, scored by freshman Aaron Robinson and sophomore Arthur Herpreck. Herpreck scored in the 33rd minute for his first collegiate goal.
Flath recorded the 17th and 18th assist of his career and now has 66 points in 53 career games he has played.
Rider led 1-0 going into halftime, outshooting La Salle 4-2 with Baird making two saves in the first half. Once La Salle put the ball in its own net with an own-goal in the 70th minute, it was all but over. Senior Rob Nardiello was able to put some pressure on La Salle’s defense to cause a miscommunication and get the own goal.
Baird ended the game with a total of three saves.Baird got his sixth career shutout and is now 13-4 as a starter for the Broncs. Rider outshot La Salle 13-7 with La Salle recording three saves as well.
“This is definitely a very promising start of the season,” Huss said. “But this is just the beginning, and we need to make sure we keep working hard towards our common objective, which is to repeat the championship.”
This was a feel-good victory for Rider as it lost to La Salle 2-1 last season. After this win, TopDrawerSoccer.com had Rider ranked No. 25 in the nation.
On Sept. 6, the Broncs continued their impressive start to 2016. Against NJIT, another undefeated team, one goal was enough for win number three.
After a scoreless first half, it did not take long for freshman Clement Bourret to put Rider on the board. Senior forward Zach Bond took a shot that deflected off a defender’s head, right to Bourret, who was able to bury it. It was the first goal of his college career.
Baird picked up his second shutout in two games, making three saves. His biggest one came in the final minute of regulation off a header by an NJIT forward.
In its run to a MAAC title in 2015, Rider didn’t get off to a particularly good start. This year, it has every reason to be excited for what is to come.
Rider will finally get a chance to play at Ben Cohen Field on Sept. 10 in its home opener against Temple.