Through the first two games of the season, the Boston University men’s soccer team has not had the easiest road. In its home opener, the Terriers faced a tough Boston College team that defeated BU 2-1 on Aug. 30. Friday, the road got even tougher for BU when it went down to Storrs, Conn., to take on No.1 University of Connecticut. While the season has been challenging thus far, the Terriers will return home for a four-game homestand starting Wednesday when they take on Hofstra University.
“We’re just trying to get better,” said BU coach Neil Roberts. “I think we have gotten better all season long. I think our training it part of that.”
Despite BU (0-2) falling in its first two contests, there are some positives for the team as it goes forward. Against the top-ranked team in the nation in UConn (2-0) the Terriers hung in the game and played valiantly. Despite allowing eight shots on goal and 19 overall, the Terriers only allowed one goal to hit the back of the net. Part of the reason for this has been the strength of their goalkeeping.
Redshirt freshman goalie Matt Gilbert has been tremendous in goal during his first two starts at the collegiate level. In his first game against Boston College (1-2-1), Gilbert made seven saves on nine attempts. He also had the assist on the lone BU goal in the contest. Against UConn, Gilbert played the first 65 minutes of the game, and was four-of-five in save opportunities. However, in the second half, Gilbert came off his line to make a save and touched the ball with his hands just outside of the goal box — an automatic red card at the collegiate level. He was then replaced by junior goalie Nick Thomson.
Thomson, who was the primary goalkeeper for the Terriers last season, came in and played shutdown goalkeeping, stopping all three shots he faced. Despite not playing in a game since last season, Thomson provided strong support behind Gilbert.
In front of the goalies has been the strong play of the BU defense. Junior defender Kelvin Madzongwe and sophomore back Jeroen Blugh returned this season for the Terriers and have been impressive. Since coming back from season-ending knee injuries, both players have helped anchor a Terrier back line that has averaged 1.50 goals allowed per game so far this year. The Terriers are second in the Patriot League with only three goals allowed through two games.
“I think you’ll see the best from Kelvin and Jeroen towards the end of the season,” Roberts said. “They’re moving well and they have a lot of experience for us. They’re very solid players and it’s good to have them back.
The Terriers will welcome a strong Hofstra (1-1-1) team this Wednesday night. Last season, BU ventured down to Hempstead, N.Y., to take on the on Pride. In that contest, the Terriers fell in a narrow 2-1 game. Junior forward Parker Powell headed in BU’s lone goal.
“We saw [Hofstra] last year, we saw when they get on a roll,” Roberts said. “It’s just up to us to keep them under control and not let them get on a roll like they did last year.”
This season, Hofstra boasts a team that has averaged 1.67 goals per contest. Senior Chris Griebsch returns for his final season with the Pride and has been one of the key offensive threats. He has taken a team-leading 16 shots through three games. He is the leader in points thus far with six, which includes two goals and two assists. With one second left in double overtime against Colgate University on Sept. 1, Griebsch set up the game-winning goal with a pass that was headed in by freshman Lerthon Theuma.
Despite the solid offense so far, Hofstra’s defense has had a little bit of trouble, allowing 2.00 goals per game through three games, the most by any team in the Colonial Athletic Association. This might give the Terrier offense, which has scored just one goal in two games, a boost Wednesday night.
“Possessing the ball is part of our game,” Roberts said. “I think we did a better job of it in the Connecticut game. I hope it’s something we can build on for the rest of the season.”