By Trey Wright
Looking to improve their seeding in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) men’s soccer playoffs, Rider blanked Iona 1-0 on Oct. 27, but was in turn shutout by Siena on Oct. 30, in the final pair of regular-season home games at Ben Cohen Field.
Shutout Victory in the Trenches
With a handful of momentum after back-to-back wins, the Broncs hosted the Iona Gaels on a chilly Oct. 27 night.
Right from the opening kickoff, it was clear it was going to be an entrenched midfield battle for the majority of the match, with Rider having the game’s first shot nine minutes into the contest, off a great pass from sophomore Adel Al-Masude to junior Zaki Alibou.
This did not mean tensions were not high, with both teams receiving yellow cards at the 22nd and 25th minute marks.
Alibou nor Al-Masude were the difference makers that night. That player was graduate student goalkeeper Pablo Gatinois, who sacrificed his body to make an incredible save at the 40-minute mark.
“I would not be able to do it without my teammates,” said Gatinois.
The scoreboard still read zero-zero at the half, not uncharacteristically for Rider, who has statistically been a second-half team in 2021, with 23 of their 34 goals coming in the back 45.
Rider took the second-half opening kickoff, and thanks to a bad Iona giveaway, the Broncs broke the scoreless ice six minutes later, with a point-blank blast from graduate student midfielder Francisco Gomez Olano on an assist from Alibou, putting the Broncs up 1-0
“It was a great pass from Zaki [Alibou], I’m happy to have put it in,” said Gomez Olano after the match.
Iona was not able to tie the game back up, and as the final horn blared, The Broncs ended up on top by a single goal, Rider’s first shutout of 2021.
“We played hard. I’m proud of the boys. It’s been a season of overcoming obstacles,” Men’s Head Coach Charlie Inverso said after the match. “[Iona] were on us for a long stretch in the second half. I was proud of the way we responded.”
This also marked Gatinois’ 15th shutout of his collegiate career.
“I couldn’t be happier for ‘Gato’. He didn’t play for a stretch of 45 days. He was superb on Saturday and again today. Talk about a guy who’s taken advantage of his second opportunity. I couldn’t be happier for him,” Inverso said proudly.
Senior Day Shut Out
Coming off of the shutout win against Iona, The Broncs looked to get one final home win in the regular season on Oct. 30 before gearing up for a deep playoff run. As it was the last home game of the year, it was senior day for the Broncs.
Their opponent, Siena, was a familiar one, with the Broncs being 7-1-1 in matches against the Saints since then, a seemingly easy target to improve Rider’s ranking in a tight seeding battle with Marist.
However, it was not an easy battle for the Broncs. Siena came out early with physical play, stunning the Broncs in the opening minutes of the match. Gatinois, looking for another win in 2021, made an incredible save at the 28-minute mark.
Yet five minutes later the Saints came marching in with a goal originating from a shot outside the 18, putting the Broncs down by one entering halftime, Rider leading in shots five to two.
Rider looked to be on the verge of tying the game in the 50th minute, with a free-kick going just wide of the net.
They would miss on another chance in the 66th minute, coming so close to getting on the board both times.
Siena doubled the lead in the 69th minute, and kept the Broncs at bay until the final horn, with Rider trading a shutout victory for being shut out on senior day.
“We had a decent little run. I counted 50 calendar days and only three losses in that time,” Inverso said after the loss. “After the La Salle game, we had a decent little run, [and] worked our way up to second place in the conference. No excuses, just answers, we had some key guys missing today and also, I thought we were very tired. I saw a very tired team out there. We’ve just got to regroup.”
One game remains in the regular season for the Broncs, who were in a three-way tie for the second seed in the MAAC between Saint Peter’s and Fairfield. Rider faces off against Manhattan on Nov. 3, on the road.