Oh Hotmani! Sophomore nets three in two games

By Brandon Scalea

mens soccer_WEBThe men’s soccer team has continued to live up to last year’s national ranking in goals scored, as it has now won four of its first six non-conference games.

Rider (4-2) hosted LIU Brooklyn on Sept. 11. Though they scored a pair, it only took one to pick up the win at home, as senior goalkeeper Ryan Baird shut the Blackbirds out.

The game-winning goal came in the 64th minute from a pair of First-Team All MAAC selections. Senior forward Florian Valot took a perfectly placed corner kick from junior midfielder Christian Flath and put it into the cage.

Just nine minutes later, sophomore forward Elliot Otmani scored his first career collegiate goal thanks to an assist by sophomore forward Jose Aguinaga.

Otmani was certainly due for one, as the native Frenchman had six shots in the game, three of which were on goal, the other two hitting the post.

Junior forward Zach Bond said his teammate has adjusted to American play.

“He’s adapted pretty quickly and become a really reliable player,” said Bond. “He comes up big when we need him to and has made some really key plays.”

The Broncs outshot LIU Brooklyn (2-3) 18-9, including 12-4 in the second half.

After winning their last nine games at Ben Cohen Field, the Broncs saw their streak stolen by La Salle on Sept. 15.

Though the winning streak ended, the offensive trend continued for the Broncs, as they outshot the Explorers in a 2-1 loss. Of La Salle’s (3-3) eight shots, two of them were able to sneak past senior goalkeeper David Pastuna.

Aguinaga believes this was another case of the Broncs beating themselves in a game they should have taken.

“We feel as though we’ve had the upper hand in both losses, especially the one at home,” he said. “But I think we are in good shape for when the conference season starts.”

After seeing a one-goal deficit early in the game, Flath was able to get Rider on the board with three minutes remaining in the first half. Flath scored on a penalty kick for the seventh time in seven career tries. He also entered the game ranked third in the nation in assists per game, with four.

Following the tough loss, the Broncs traveled to Rhode Island for a meeting with Bryant. In a thrilling game that saw Bryant overcome a two-goal deficit, the Broncs were able to keep their composure and win in double overtime.

Otmani, fresh off his first NCAA goal, scored twice in the victory, including the game-winner with 21 seconds to play in the sudden death overtime.

His first goal of the contest came off an assist from freshman forward Joe Panuccio and looked to be the nail in the coffin for Bryant, as it put Rider up 2-0 with 14 minutes remaining.

Rider’s first goal came off another Flath penalty kick, keeping his PK goal average at 1.000.

Aguinaga feels that Flath is a key reason the Broncs are winning these tight games.

“He’s always been good for us, but he’s really stepping up this season,” he said. “As a team, we feel pretty good about where we’re at right now with the big conference games approaching.”

But the Bulldogs would battle back, scoring twice in 66 seconds to tie the game with under 7 minutes remaining.

After a scoreless first overtime, Otmani scored from close range after an assist from Bond.

Bond feels that the game-winner was a well-deserved team effort.

“I think it was a collective goal, we really showed character as a team and proved that we don’t accept defeat,” he said. “Beating Bryant was huge for us and has given us a great mentality to take with us when conference games start.”

The Broncs are now 3-0-1 all-time against Bryant. They will face off against NJIT at Ben Cohen Field on Sept. 23, in their last non-conference battle of the season.

Aguinaga believes this will be a good final test for his team.

“We have been confident all year about our ability to score, so a game against an in-state team is huge,” he said. “We have the tools to succeed and do big things.”

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