By Rob Rose
After reaching the MAAC Championship game in three consecutive seasons, the men’s soccer team found itself in jeopardy of missing the playoffs. Rider advanced to the postseason every year since its 2013 campaign.
Rider defeated Monmouth, 2-1, on Oct. 20, but lost to Quinnipiac, 2-1, on Oct. 17. Following these two results, Rider was tied with Manhattan as the sixth seed in the conference with 12 points.
“It was a good win,” said Head Coach Charlie Inverso. “I still consider Monmouth one of the class teams in the MAAC. Their keeper killed us with four great saves tonight, but we pulled it out and we move onto [the Broncs’ next game on Oct. 24.]”
In the MAAC, the top six teams earn postseason bids. If the season ended with the current standings, the Jaspers would reach the conference tournament over the Broncs. The tiebreaker policy order in the MAAC is head-to-head record, best record, higher goal differential and more goals scored.
When Rider and Manhattan met on Oct. 10, the Jaspers secured a 1-0 victory in overtime, which would give Manhattan the tiebreaker decision over Rider.
The Broncs had one more game on their schedule than the Jaspers and the opportunity to jump them in the standings. The final two games on Manhattan’s schedule are Canisius and Fairfield.
“We are an offensive team and I think we are working hard at practice every day to improve our capacity to score goals,” said junior forward Clement Bourret. “We are getting more and more chances every game which is a good sign for the rest of the season.”
Just above Rider and Manhattan in the standings were St. Peter’s and Iona, who have 13 points.
St. Peter’s, Rider’s next opponent, had three games remaining and a victory in the only match between the teams this season would give the Broncs the tiebreaker advantage.
St. Peter’s last pair of opponents following the match against Rider were against Fairfield and Siena.
Iona had two games remaining this season and suffered a 3-1 defeat during the Sept. 26 contest.
In addition to St. Peter’s, Rider’s schedule featured two of the MAAC’s lower-ranked teams. Canisius and Siena were ranked No. 8 and No. 9 in the conference with seven and six points, respectively. Each team had recorded two wins in seven previous matches.
In its 2-1 loss at Quinnipiac, Rider allowed two goals in the final seven minutes of the match. Junior forward Eamon Whelan scored his MAAC-leading ninth and 10th goals of the season to secure the victory.
The two goals by Whelan brought the number of goals Rider allowed in the final 10 minutes of games this year to 10. Of the Broncs’ eight losses in 2018, they lost seven times in overtime or allowed the game-winning goal in the final minutes of the match.
Junior back Aaron Robinson put the Broncs in front with his second career goal, his first since 2016, in the 61st minute. The score was assisted by graduate student back Borja Ares Ortiz who earned his first point for the Broncs.
In the 2-1 win over Monmouth, Bourret was the star. He scored Rider’s first goal in the match and delivered a corner kick that was finished by junior back Sylvain Coco for the game-winning score.
“I was very happy because it was my first goal this season and it helped the team to win an important game,” said Bourret. “It was Coco’s birthday the following day so it was great to see him score the winning goal on one of my corner kicks.”
The goal and assist were both Bourret’s first of the season. He recorded eight assists and one goal in 2017.
Monmouth tied the game in the 43rd minute on a penalty kick by junior midfielder George Akampeke.
With three games remaining in the season, a trio of victories would clinch a playoff spot for the Broncs and potentially catapult them as high as the No. 2 seed in the MAAC.
“Our goal is to win our three last games in order to get the highest seed possible for the playoffs,” said Bourret. “If we bring the same attitude that we had against Monmouth, have the right mentality and keep fighting for each other on the field, we can hope for a very good end of [the] season.”
Rider’s next match is at home on Oct. 24 at 3:30 p.m. against St. Peter’s. On Oct. 27, Rider’s final home game of the season against Siena kicks off at 2 p.m.
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