The development of the Boston University men’s soccer team’s offense, one of the highlights of the season thus far, came to a major halt in a double-overtime 0-0 draw with Harvard University at Soldiers Field. The Terriers, who have been improving steadily throughout the season on offense, struggled with ball possession and passing, highlighted by a number of missed opportunities for goals and a high number of turnovers.
“They’re very big, and they loft balls in the box, so you try to get control of it,” said BU coach Neil Roberts. “At times we did, at times we didn’t. We had [junior defender] Parker [Powell] in the back for the first time and he was dealing with it. It was a very difficult game, being back there for the first time, to deal with, between the throw-ins and launching it into the box. In the midfield, we probably should have been more effective.”
The Crimson (1-4-2) dominated the ball in the first 25 minutes of the first half, preventing the Terriers (3-3-1) from getting any solid shots on goal. While the Terriers maintained possession for the remainder of the half, the team had trouble setting up chances and crossing the ball across the box. The Crimson defense repeatedly double-teamed senior midfielder Anthony Ciccone, preventing the skillful captain from setting up potential scoring opportunities.
Besides the solid defense from Harvard, Ciccone had to deal with other issues.
“Anthony had the flu yesterday and today, and he wasn’t going to play … then he wanted to play,” Roberts said. “We knew that he wasn’t himself and he didn’t have that jump. It’s just coming off the bug. I was told this morning that he wasn’t going to play and that he wanted to play and he said he felt better, which he was probably lying about. That is a credit to him. He wasn’t at full strength. We tried to get him some rest, but he’s game and at any time, he can turn the game around, which he almost did at the end of regulation.”
“I’m fine,” Ciccone said, when asked about his illness. “I don’t want to use that as an excuse. I was feeling fine.”
Ciccone, who averaged 80 minutes per game in the first seven matches of the season, played 71 out of a possible 110 minutes. Roberts said he believes Ciccone not being at full strength had an effect on the Terriers’ offense.
“He’s so dangerous beating people on the flank that if we have [sophomore forward] Mac [McGuire] doing it on the right, and [Anthony] doing it on the left, then it opens up the middle of the park and we can move the ball quicker,” Roberts said.
While the offense was an issue against Harvard, the Terriers also collected four yellow cards. Junior forward Dominique Badji was given a yellow card in the 74th minute after displaying frustration to a referee over a foul. Powell, who played a season-high 110 minutes, received a yellow card in the 87th minute. Junior defender Fannar Arnarsson and senior forward Ali Sozeri also received yellow cards in the 100th and 110th minute respectively.
“Fannar lost it once and he was called for a foul,” Roberts said. “He picked up the ball and got a yellow card for it. In his mind, it wasn’t a foul, and you just have to deal with it. Two things: you stop the ball very late in the game and you let them get a free kick. The players just have to be mature about it. The referees are going to miss things, but you just have to play and deal with it.”
The struggles against the Crimson helped Roberts identify the issues in the offense.
“We still take too many touches in the middle of the park,” Roberts said. “Some new young guys in there just don’t realize how quickly they are going to be closed down. They think that they have more time than they do, and if we get into conference play … Navy is very good at it [closing down play], so we’ve got to be able to do a better job at it.”