By Brandon Scalea
Following a shutout loss to Marist in the opener of conference play, the men’s soccer team was blanked yet again by St. Peter’s, before finally picking up its first win of the MAAC season on Oct. 3 against Iona.
Rider’s offense was top 10 in the nation in goals scored last season, but against St. Peter’s on Sept. 30, the Broncs (6-4, 1-2 MAAC) were again looking for answers.
With both teams playing a man down because of red cards issued in the first half, the Peacocks (5-4-1, 2-1 MAAC) took a 1-0 lead in the 71st minute off a shot from senior midfielder Chris Rodrigues. Despite offensive struggles from both teams the entire game, it only took four minutes for St. Peter’s to strike again.
It was sophomore midfielder Jack Pounce who beat junior goalkeeper David Pastuna with an unassisted goal for the 2-0 lead, a lead that would hold for the rest of the afternoon.
Although he was handed the loss, Pastuna kept the Broncs in the game, making five saves. The Peacocks outshot the Broncs 11-7.
It was the first time in three seasons that the Peacocks were able to hold off the Broncs, with Rider holding a 22-12-2 advantage in the series that dates back 55 years.
Three days later, the Broncs were able to reestablish some offensive confidence with a solid victory in New Rochelle, N.Y. against the Gaels, a team they had not beaten in a decade.
Junior forward Zach Bond described the feeling of finally escaping New Rochelle with a win.
“It always feels great to win a MAAC game, but beating [Iona] was definitely a weight off our chest,” he said. “I feel like it has given us the motivation we need moving forward.”
Despite missing a pair of key defensemen and its top scorer, junior midfielder Christian Flath, Rider escaped with a 2-0 win.
The scoring came early, as senior forward Florian Valot netted a penalty kick in just the 16th minute of play. It was the fourth goal of the season for Valot, who was out the previous four games because of injury.
Just four minutes later, sophomore forward Elliot Otmani continued his hot streak, scoring off a pass from Valot to make it 2-0.
Iona (5-5-1, 1-2 MAAC) was able to outshoot the Broncs 16-13, but Rider’s senior goalkeeper Ryan Baird made eight saves, the highest of his career.
The Broncs will look to carry the momentum into a huge test with defending MAAC champion and in-state rival Monmouth, when they host them on Oct. 7.
Bond said his team is excited for the intensity the rivalry game will bring.
“Monmouth has always been one of our strongest competitors, and we are really looking to prove that with our talent and motivation, we can beat the defending champions,” he said. “We showed against Iona that we have the talent and work ethic to beat anyone in this conference.”