By Thomas Regan
For the first time in 16 seasons, the men’s soccer team finished with a winning record. The Broncs clinched a playoff berth with a 2-0 victory over Marist on Nov. 1. The win came after Rider dropped a 1-0 game to Monmouth on Oct. 29.
In the matchup against Monmouth, the Broncs (9-6-2, 6-4 MAAC) struggled to keep up with the Hawks for most of the first half, as they were outshot eight to five.
Despite taking two shots in the first seven minutes, Rider could not keep Monmouth (7-3-6, 3-1-5 MAAC) from pressuring the defense.
Between the 10th and 11th minutes, Monmouth forced four corner kicks and took two shots, which luckily for Rider, came up empty. After taking three more shots, Rider failed to score, ending the first half scoreless.
The second half opened in the same fashion, as Rider took multiple shots to start, but the Broncs gave the Hawks multiple chances with five corner kicks before allowing the first and only goal of the contest in the 83rd minute.
Sophomore goalkeeper David Pastuna, who was forced to make only one save in the contest, believes Monmouth’s strong defense led to Rider’s eventual demise.
“They were a very organized team defensively,” Pastuna said. “They did not leave any gaps in their defense, so it was hard to penetrate and score a goal. They were probably the best-organized team we played all year.”
Looking to improve their record after the 1-0 defeat, Rider headed to Marist (7-6-4, 3-4-2 MAAC) for its final game in the regular season.
In the opening 13 minutes of the contest, Rider and Marist traded shots, until the Red Foxes took six unanswered shots and outshot the Broncs nine to one for the remainder of the half. Fortunately for Rider, Pastuna made two saves to keep the game scoreless at the end of the opening half.
The Broncs came out of the intermission with a goal by senior forward Ryan Walsh, just 23 seconds into the second half to give Rider the 1-0 lead. For the remainder of the game, the Broncs outshot the Red Foxes nine to four, before Justin Veltri scored the final goal of the game in the 89th minute to give the team a 2-0 victory and a playoff berth.
Pastuna attributes the strong wind and rain for the team’s poor opening half, but was content with his performance in the net.
“The first half was horrible,” Pastuna said. “It was impossible for us to keep the ball due to the weather. We were going against the wind and Marist came out strong and was using the wind to their advantage. For me, I knew I had to be confident in the box, especially since it was raining.”
Despite the fact Rider secured a playoff spot, the seeding will not be determined until Nov. 5, after the rest of the conference finishes regular-season play.
Head Coach Charlie Inverso understands that this is a historic season for Rider men’s soccer and knows his team is hungry to win in the playoffs, which will begin at Rider on Nov. 8.
“This is our first winning season in 16 years and it’s also the first time we’ve hosted a playoff game in 16 years,” Inverso said. “We’ll have a much better idea once we find out who our opponent is, but for now this week is a chance for us just to keep sharp and for guys to heal up injuries. I have no doubt that we are going to respond Saturday because this team is really passionate and they want to win.”