It has been a struggle for the Boston University men’s soccer team through its first two games of the season. Playing against highly touted programs such as Boston College and the No. 3 University of Connecticut, the Terriers struggled to control games and ended up dropping both contests. Most notably, the Terrier offensive output was lackluster. The team only scored one goal between the two games and had trouble possessing the ball.
Wednesday night against Hofstra University, fortunes changed for the Terriers. Led by senior midfielder Anthony Ciccone, the Terriers (1-2) excelled in all phases of the offensive side of the ball, leading to a 2-1 victory over the Pride (1-2-1).
Coming into the contest, the Terriers only scored one goal on the season, which came in the early minutes of their first contest against the Eagles. Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Matt Gilbert set up a deep pass to senior forward Ali Sozeri, who put the ball in the net. After that goal in the first half against BC (1-2-1), the Terriers went goalless for the remainder of that contest as well as against UConn (2-0-1). One of the reasons that the Terriers have not been as strong offensively is due to the fact that premier ball-handler and passer Ciccone is coming back into the team from off-season surgery.
Last season, Ciccone was one of the strongest players on a Terrier team that finished 6-8-4 in its final season in the America East Conference. He ended the year with a team-leading eight assists and was named to the America East All-Conference Second Team for his efforts.
Despite not being at full strength in Wednesday’s contest, Ciccone led an impressive offensive attack all night for the Terriers. Despite allowing an early goal to forward Elliot Firth, the Terriers came right back with a response. After the goal, the Terriers looked like a different team, possessing the ball and making crisp passes.
“Coach has been harping on ‘possession, possession’ in practice,” Ciccone said. “Especially with the heat, you’ve got to keep the ball at our feet so we’re not running. We ran them out of the game in the first half. You’ve got to respond right away against a team like that that brings high energy.”
With ball possession and control in hand, the Terriers finally made some headway offensively. After BU had multiple shot opportunities, including a chance on the left side of the box by Ciccone in the 23rd minute, the team finally got on the scoreboard in the 30th minute.
The Terriers earned a corner, which Ciccone took, after which the ball went into the box where commotion ensued. After all was said and done, junior forward Dominque Badji was taken down inside the box and earned a penalty kick for the Terriers. Badji raced to the ball and put it in low right corner of the goal, as Hofstra goalie Roberto Pelligrini stood motionless.
After the penalty kick, the Terriers remained aggressive, hungry for that second goal and their first lead since the first minutes of their home opener.
“When we scored the first one, we knew we had them,” Ciccone said. “We had them on their back foot and they were backing up on us. We knew that we were going to get a second one.”
Nine minutes later in the half, that is exactly what the Terriers did. As Ciccone had done throughout most of the first half, he weaved and danced around the defense on the left side of the field. He arced a pass into the middle of the box to sophomore forward Mac McGuire, who booted the ball past Pelligrini’s reach to put the Terriers in the lead.
The lead was carried into the second half, which the Terriers did not relinquish. Despite not recording one shot on goal in the period, BU controlled the ball for most of the half and did not allow the Pride to get back into the game.
Combined with controlling the ball and the tired Pride players, the Terriers were able to clinch their first victory of the season.
“We didn’t want to go into overtime, so getting out in 90 minutes was good for us,” Ciccone said. “It was a team effort and we were all feeling good.”