By Trey Wright and Carolo Pascale
Rider men’s soccer saw the good and bad of its squad over the past two games, splitting two non-conference games against La Salle and Stony Brook.
On Sept. 11 Rider traveled to the outskirts of Philadelphia to La Salle University, to take on the Explorers. Coming into the evening match with a record of 1-2-1, the Broncs looked to get a win against a team they had beaten in five of its last six tries.
Rider took the opening kickoff, and for the first quarter of the game, it looked as if it was going to be a battle in the midfield trenches.
However, once the goose-egged score was broken in the 28th minute by senior forward Zaki Alibou, the match looked to go in the Broncs favor, as Rider had five shots compared to the Explorers zero.
Yet the second half was all La Salle, who tied the game on their first shot with a goal, five minutes into the second half.
The Explorers took the lead with a shot to the low-end of the right side of the goal in the 54th minute, scoring its second goal in as many shots.
Rider senior midfielder Guillermo Pavia Vidal re-tied the game in the 65th minute, but La Salle answered right back with another goal that ended up being the game winner.
La Salle scored three goals in 17 minutes while Rider had no answer to stop the bleeding. The Explorers netted one more goal to put the game out of reach for Rider in the 86th minute.
The scoreboard read 4-2 when the final horn sounded, with the Broncs going down to 1-2-1 to begin the 2021 season.
“We didn’t play very well and we know it,” said Head Coach Charles Inverso after the match.
“We didn’t come to play, which is disappointing because we usually compete well. Against Stony Brook we need to become better as a team. We have a lot of new guys and this is a process. If we trust the process we will be a good team.”
Coming into the game against Stony Brook, the Broncs looked to turn it around after dropping their last two games to Saint Francis and La Salle. Rider did just that with a much needed 3-1 win over the Seawolves.
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a hard fought match, because it certainly was.
Stony Brook started the game off quick with their first shot coming in just the third minute. Meanwhile, Rider didn’t register a shot until the back end of the ninth minute.
Alibou, continuing his streak of impressive shot totals, registered two shots in just the first 26 minutes of the match.
“He’s a very talented guy and everyone knows that. He has a lot of creativity […] he has the talent to do that and the talent to score 10 or 15 goals,” said junior goalkeeper Guillaume Veinate.
The game started to get chippy with the first yellow card being dealt to Broncs junior midfielder Matt Araujo in the 29th minute. Three minutes later, Alibou got into a scuffle with three Seawolves and there was some pushing and shoving but several players from both teams, as well as the referees, did a good job to calm the situation.
“It was a very difficult game, very complicated, and we worked together and worked hard. This is the key, you work hard,” said Alibou.
At the end of the first half, the score read the same as it had at the start of the match, stuck at 0-0, with Rider taking four shots in the half while Stony Brook took three.
In terms of fouls and yellow cards, the Broncs had the lead in both departments with nine fouls and three yellow cards.
In the second half, Rider came out fast and on the attack and it paid off. Broncs junior back Lenny Cidolit scored in the 54th minute to give Rider a 1-0 lead. The goal, assisted by Broncs senior Jeremy Peterson, ensured that Rider would not go scoreless in this one.
The Broncs then extended their lead over the Seawolves, scoring two more goals less than seven minutes apart, giving Rider a 3-0 lead. Sophomore forward Justin Ruffino scored in the 67th minute, while Alibou scored in the 73rd minute.
“It was pretty good and he had been struggling a little bit recently. He’s a big body and that second goal was huge,” said Inverso on Ruffino’s performance.
In the 87th minute, a bouncing ball and in-tight shot lead to Stony Brooks’ only goal of the evening, making the final score 3-1.
‘This was a very important game for us after we lost two games in a row. Everyone’s going to feel better with this so let’s enjoy this win,” said Alibou.
Rider now moves to 2-3-1 on the year as the Broncs gear up for their final non-conference game of the season when they take on the Fordham University Rams at home on Sept. 22.
“[Fordham] is a really good team and they made the NCAA tournament last year. We’ve always had tough games with them and we know they’ll be a challenging opponent,” said Inverso.