By Jake Tiger and Matthew LoPuzzo
After enduring a grueling four-game losing streak, Rider men’s soccer was finally rewarded with its first win of the season against Central Connecticut State on Sept. 14, before adding a tie to its record on Sept. 18 in its home opener with New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), bringing the team’s record to 1-4-1.
‘Knowing how to win’
The Broncs added a long-awaited and satisfying tally to the win column, with their 2-0 conquering of the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils.
Putting an end to their four-game sputter, the Broncs got the chance to learn what it takes to win and build some positive momentum ahead of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play.
“There’s a difference between hating to lose and knowing how to win,” said Head Coach Charles Inverso. “Wednesday we figured out a way to win and that is a skill.”
Rider got out in front early, scoring on its first shot of the match in the eighth minute. Junior midfielder Adel Al-Masude punched in the goal, marking his second score of the young season.
Sophomore midfielder Dylan Kotch put the Broncs up 2-0 in the 87th minute with his first ever shot and goal as a Bronc, prompting a congratulatory uproar from his teammates.
Rider’s performance against Central Connecticut State was a marked improvement, as prior to the match, the Broncs had only scored two goals on the season. Inverso credited the success to a strategic decision by the coaching staff.
“We have been playing more high press this year and trying to utilize our depth,” said Inverso. “It was a good recommendation from the assistant coaches.”
While the Broncs bookended their winning effort with offensive exclamations, what they did in between those scores was the real story, as a devastating Rider defense limited the Blue Devils to just two shots.
“We got a lot of pressure on the ball and kept players from turning which leads to good defense,” said Inverso. “When we don’t foul and don’t give the ball away on our end, we don’t give up goals.”
The game also saw some new faces step up for the Broncs, as a void had to be filled when senior back Guillaume Sarrabayrouse went down in the second half. Fortunately for Rider, its new additions held their own.
“[Sarrabayrouse] has been outstanding,” said Inverso. “For us to finish with a win without Guillaume was a great accomplishment. Dylan Kotch and Mo Bocher are two guys who were not in the regular rotation for the first four games and both came in and played well.”
The all-around dominant showing was a sigh of relief for the troubled Rider men’s soccer team, as it can finally put the possibility of a winless season to rest.
Holding firm at home
The Broncs returned to Ben Cohen Field after starting the season with a brutal five-game road stretch, in which they went 1-4. Coming off a win at Central Connecticut State, the Broncs kept the momentum moving on Saturday with a 2-2 tie against NJIT.
Coming out of the gate hot, the Broncs got the benefit of the doubt from a redirected own goal by the Highlanders 10 minutes into the game.
Before anyone could blink, the Highlanders got right back on the board to knot things up at 1-1 less than a minute later.
After graduate student midfielder Jeremy Peterson went down with an injury, freshman midfielder Mo Bocher took the field and added a much-needed spark to the Broncs offense. Bocher launched an impressive backheel shot into the goal, putting Rider up 2-1.
“[Bocher] was out of the picture, and what we tell the guys all the time is to catch our attention in training, and he’s been catching our attention,” said Inverso.”There’s no magic formula to it and he’s playing well and when we put him in the game he responds to it.”
Bocher said, “I think I just wanna get more minutes in and just keep going and scoring.”
The whistle blew to begin the 2nd half and there was a static phase with both teams playing solid defense with an incredible save from senior goalkeeper Guillaume Veinante who had five saves on the day.
Despite playing solid defense for most of the match, the Broncs had a miscommunication on a crossing pass that would eventually become NJIT’s equalizer, knotting the teams at 2-2.
The Broncs drew a penalty kick to have a chance to break the ice, but junior forward Babacar Diene couldn’t sink it bottom left. Highlander goalkeeper Samuel Reisgys made a tremendous save to preserve the tie.
With conference play on the horizon, Inverso will go back to where he was once an assisant coach on Sept. 23, when the Broncs take the trip to Princeton for their final non-conference match of the season.