By Trey Wright
Following back to back shutout losses to close the regular season, Rider bounced back to blank Siena in the first round of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Men’s Soccer Playoffs, with a new shutout school record being set.
Meltdown in Manhattan
A lot can be on the line in the twilight of the regular season. A playoff spot was not in danger for Rider as they entered Manhattan, but their seeding was in the balance, as well as where it would play its next match after a 2-0 win over the Jaspers.
Manhattan, who had a record of 5-8-2 entering the match, did not have this locked-in luxury entering the final game. It was do or die for the Jaspers. A win and they make it into the MAAC playoffs, but a loss and they go home.
Rider made strides early in the first half, having quite a few plays down the field that kept the Manhattan defense in check.
However the Jaspers had a few chances in the waning moments of the first half, which was a sign of things to come.
In the 55th minute, Manhattan scored with a shot going just to the left of Broncs senior goalkeeper Pablo Gatinois.
Nine minutes later, another ball sailed past Gatinois to make it 2-0 Jaspers.
Despite being ahead 14-13 in shots, including a 5-4 advantage in shots on goal, the Broncs couldn’t get one back, and Manhattan got the walk off victory they needed to punch their ticket into the MAAC Men’s Soccer Playoffs.
“Players were very upset after the Manhattan game,” said Broncs Head Coach Charlie Inverso, “We had a decent first half, but they were hungrier than us because they needed to win.”
The Broncs ended up falling from the third seed to the firth seed, being bypassed by Niagara and Siena on the final day of the regular season.
However, opportunity knocked, as the awaited opponent was soon slated: Siena.
Rider traveled up to Siena College to take on the Saints, for the second time in three games and this time ended in a 1-0 shutout win. The previous game resulted in the Broncs being shut out on Senior Day, potentially their last game at Ben Cohen Field for the season.
“No one really mentioned the revenge factor against Siena and we were pretty quiet going into the game,” Inverso said.
Yet just over four minutes into the match, the Broncs struck first, with Fransisco Gomez Olano tapping the ball from the six past Siena’s goaltender, set up by an absolute dart of a throw-in by Jeremy Peterson, and being given to Olano by Lenny Cidolit, who missed the first Siena matchup due to card accumulation.
“An early goal in soccer is like a gift from heaven,” said Inverso, “It changes the whole mentality of the team who is trailing.”
The Broncs, who were shut out in their previous two games, found themselves fending off a hungry Saints team for the next 85 minutes.
Gatinois played his part to perfection, making two huge saves in the first half, and two more in the second, including an incredible jumping catch on a shot from just outside the 18.
Neither team could find the back of the net for the rest of the match, meaning the Olano goal just 245 seconds into the 90-minute match was the difference-maker, with the Broncs returning the favor, shutting out Siena 1-0, and moving on in the bracket.
This win also marked the 16th career shutout for Gatinois, breaking the tie for the Men’s Soccer record he shared with Chip Maruca, who played for the Broncs from 1989-1992.
“[Gatinois] went 50 calendar days without playing, and to see him make a late comeback in his senior year is really gratifying,” said Inverso.
The “any team can defeat any team” mantra was proven throughout the rest of the MAAC bracket’s first round, as every lower-seed team, except Manhattan, won their matches, leading Rider to what should be an exciting home playoff matchup on Thursday, November 11th against Fairfield.