In a battle on Friday for Commonwealth Avenue bragging rights, the Boston University men’s soccer team fell to Boston College in a tight 2-1 overtime contest. This upcoming Friday, Sept.6, the Terriers (0-1) will have an even tougher test as they will be on the road to take on the No. 3 University of Connecticut.
“Obviously it was a disappointing loss,” said BU coach Neil Roberts. “We just got to keep working on getting better. Our starts have to be better. We gave up two corner kick goals. That’s not really acceptable. We’re young, and we just have to get better.”
While BU lost to the Eagles (1-0) last week, there were some bright spots that the Terriers can look forward to for the rest of the season.
Redshirt freshman Matt Gilbert started in goal for the Terriers in their opener over last year’s starting goalie junior Nick Thomson. Last year, Thomson posted a .755 save percentage and allowed 1.21 goals a game for the Terriers, who finished 6-8-4 in their final season in the America East Conference.
In his first start at the collegiate level, Gilbert was impressive. He made seven of nine possible saves, good for a .778 save percentage. Not only was his performance strong in net, but he also had an assist on the lone BU goal.
In front of Gilbert, defenders junior Kelvin Madzongwe and sophomore Jeroen Blugh are back after season-ending knee injuries suffered in the 2012 season. They both played in the first game of the season, each playing 99 minutes.
“We’ve got five guys coming off of surgery, so it’s going to take time,” Roberts said. “They’ll be better this game, more confident. There will be setbacks, and we’re going to be careful with them.”
The Terrier offense will look to keep clicking after it recorded 14 shots, with three going on net. Senior forward Ali Sozeri scored the only goal of the game in the first half and also had two other shots. While Sozeri produced the offense in the first game, the Terriers can look for some other key contributors.
Senior midfielder Anthony Ciccone was named to the America East All-Conference Second Team last season for his exceptional play. He led the team with eight assists and was one of the key forces in the Terrier offense with his ball moving ability. To go with Ciccone’s abilities, the Terriers will seek junior forward Dominque Badji’s goal scoring. The 2011 America East Rookie of the Year finished 2012 with three of the Terriers’ eight goals last season. If both are playing at their best, BU will have an imposing offense heading into Connecticut.
The Huskies, as one of the top teams in the nation, will give the Terriers another huge test in their second game. Last season, the teams faced each other in September with the game ending in a 1-1 draw. Sozeri scored the only goal for the Terriers in the 61st minute and goalie Nick Thomson made five saves against the UConn attack.
“We’ll see where Nick’s at, he’s training more,” Roberts said on the goalie situation. “Gilbert is playing well. It will be a day-by-day situation. I think Nick is getting close and we‘ll see how Gilbert is training. It’s a very good situation to be in.”
In UConn’s first game of the season, it defeated St. Francis College by a score of 1-0. The lone goal for the Huskies came from freshman Cyle Larin in the 25th minute. UConn controlled play for most of the game, taking nine shots in the first half. The stout Husky defense allowed no shots in the first half and five for the game.
Midfielder Colin Bradley anchors both a strong offense and defense for UConn. Last season he recorded seven points, which included four assists. His defense was crucial in the 12 shutouts the Huskies posted last season.
To go with Bradley’s solid play in the middle, the Terriers will have to deal with the strength of forward Mamadou Doudou Diouf. Last season, Diouf was named Second Team All-American and to the All-Big East First Team. He led the team with an incredible 32 points and 15 goals as part of a potent Husky attack.
“Connecticut gives us a lot of different looks,” Roberts said. “They’re a strong team. So we have to adjust to what they do. They are fast and powerful. If we didn’t think we could play with them, we wouldn’t schedule this game. There will probably be about 6,000 people there and a good atmosphere. I think it’ll be an enjoyable situation to be in.”