The Boston University men’s soccer team’s eventual 2-1 overtime loss to longtime rival Boston College Friday night was the program’s first game as a member of the Patriot League. Another storyline, one perhaps even more crucial to the Terriers this season, was the return of junior defender Kelvin Madzongwe and sophomore defender Jeroen Blugh after both players missed most of the 2012 season due to injuries.
Despite the fact that both players suffered serious knee injuries last season, both Madzongwe and Blugh played all 99 minutes of the game against the Eagles (1-0), exhibiting few signs of apparent rust in their games.
While both defenders looked solid in their 2013 debuts, BU coach Neil Roberts said that he was initially cautious with how much playing time both players, especially co-captain Madzongwe, would get due to the severity of their injuries last year.
“We didn’t want him to play as much, you know, it’s the first game back for [Madzongwe] and Jeroen,” Roberts said. “That was a lot of running they did for coming off those kind of surgeries. But he stood out pretty well. The big thing is how he’ll be tomorrow. Hopefully [they both] respond well.”
Last season, both Madzongwe and Blugh helped form one of the most impressive backfields in the America East Conference at the start of the year. Their collective talent was never more evident than on Aug, 27, 2012, when both players, along with then-sophomore defender Sanford Spivey, helped BU shut out the then-No. 11 BC Eagles (8-6-5 in 2012) for the first time since 1998.
Despite their potential, their chance to further improve as a cohesive unit was cut short just four days later, as Madzongwe tore his ACL after playing just 13 minutes in the team’s next game against Wake Forest University. Blugh ended up playing in seven games (six starts). The year before he also suffered a torn ACL after going down early in the first half of a match against No. 24 Brown University on Sept. 13, forcing the San Juan, Trinidad, native to miss the final 11 games of the season.
With both key defenders out for the season, the Terriers struggled, finishing the season with a 6-8-4 record, just the third losing season in Roberts’s 29-year tenure at BU.
Now, with both players healthy — especially Madzongwe, the 2010 America East Rookie of the Year, 2011 America East Defender of the Year and a member of the 2013 Patriot League Preseason All-Conference team — the two will be heavily relied upon to anchor the Terrier backfield and are perhaps the biggest key to the Terriers (0-1) living up to the high expectations indicated in a preseason poll that predicted BU to finish second among all Patriot League teams.
While much is to be expected from both players this year, Roberts also stressed that Madzongwe and Blugh are still not completely healthy and will need some time to reach their full potential.
“[Madzongwe] and Jeroen are probably at about 75 or 80 percent,” Roberts said. “You know, as the season goes on, you’ll see them progress and progress, and by the end of the year I think you’ll see them close to where they are next year, where they’ll really shine.”