Soccer, Sports

NCAAs beckon for m. soccer

After earning its seventh America East Tournament title with a 1-0 victory over Binghamton University last Saturday, the Boston University men’s soccer team begins its quest for a national title today against Fairleigh Dickinson University at 5 p.m. on Nickerson Field.

The Knights (13-5-2), hailing from Teaneck, N.J., claimed the Northeast Conference championship and an automatic NCAA Tournament bid with a 7-2 trouncing of Mount St. Mary’s University last weekend.

‘They’re a very good attacking team,’ BU coach Neil Roberts said of FDU. ‘They’ve got some skillful players and they score a lot of goals. They’re dangerous at any time. They’re organized and they’re a good team, like any team you’re going to play now. What they’re probably known for, this season anyway, is that they score goals.’

But the Terriers (11-5-3) have won four straight and are currently riding a nine-game unbeaten streak. They also earned home field advantage for the first round and are quite fond of their large turf field, going 7-2-2 at Nickerson this season.

‘[The advantage] is good,’ Roberts said. ‘It’s something you have to earn. You don’t just get it. It depends on your ranking and where you fit in in the selection committee with the NCAA. It’s an honor to get it and it’s a reward for what the players have done throughout the year.’

The Knights are dangerous offensively, with four players earning 10 or more points this season. Their leading goal scorer, junior forward Samson Malijani, has notched 18 goals and 41 points this year. Malijani leads the Northeast Conference in points, points per game (2.16), goals (18) and goals per game (0.95). He is currently second in the nation in points and points per game, and is tied for second in goals and goals per game.

‘We’ve got to know where he is at all times,’ Roberts said. ‘We’re not just going to put a guy on him and follow him all over the field. We just have to defend well. That means, no matter if it’s him or whoever else is in there, we cannot give him good opportunities. If he gets opportunities, he’s going to score.

‘We have to try to make sure they don’t get services in and that we don’t commit a lot of fouls around their zone so they don’t get good looks,’ Roberts continued.

But the Terrier defense should be able to shut down any offensive threats. The backline, led by senior goalkeeper Hrafn Davidsson, has only allowed three goals in the past nine games and recorded eight shutouts this season. Davidsson comes into the contest with a 0.85 goals-against average and a .775 save percentage.

‘Our defense works as a group,’ Roberts said. ‘It starts in the goal, the backs are doing well, our midfield is defending well and our forwards help in our defense. Collectively, we have a pretty solid defense. We’ve played against talented players this season and we’ve done well against them. This will be a challenge but we’ve played against these types of teams in the past that are good offensively. It will be challenging, but it will be fun.’

Recently, the Terriers have been getting contributions from their upperclassmen coming off the bench. Junior Tom Strackhouse has recorded four goals this season, registering the game-winner against Binghamton University during the regular season.

Seniors Jon Jonsson and Jin Oh have been the postseason heroes for the Terriers. Jonsson set up Oh for two out of the three goals in the America East Tournament, including the lone tally in the AE championship game against Binghamton.

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