The Boston University men’s soccer team stretched its unbeaten streak to six at Nickerson Field Saturday afternoon after toppling Patriot League opponent Loyola University Maryland by a score of 2-1.
With the victory, the Terriers (8-2-1, 3-0-1 Patriot League) made it 13 games without a loss in conference regular season play. This is the best stretch for BU since the team went 29 games (28-0-1) without a loss from 1989-1993.
It was not easy for the Terriers in this one, as the Greyhounds (1-8-2, 0-3-1 Patriot League) pressured them throughout and stymied a number of BU offensive attacks.
The Terriers displayed more energy than the Greyhounds from the opening kickoff, coming out firing in the first ten minutes of the game.
In the sixth minute, BU had a scoring opportunity squelched by the Loyola defense after a number of attackers were lurking around the net. Junior forward Felix De Bona, who is second on the team in points with nine, came the closest, but his shot was blocked.
Despite having a great deal of possession, the Terriers failed to create many more scoring chances over the remainder of the first half. Loyola goalkeeper Matt Sanchez had to make just one save through the first 45 minutes of play.
“In the first half we had some possession, but we didn’t really get anything out of it so that was disappointing,” said BU coach Neil Roberts. “We knew they were going to sit in and we didn’t move the ball well enough.”
In the 42nd minute, the Greyhounds lost midfielder Xander Saling after a collision with BU’s junior goalkeeper Matt Gilbert. They dodged a bullet, though, as the freshman, who had both Loyola shots up to that point in the game, would return.
The Greyhounds responded to Saling’s injury well, scoring just minutes into the second half. Freshman Mickey Watson gave Loyola the 1-0 lead in the 49th minute off a header from four yards out.
This was just the third goal the Greyhounds had scored all season, and the first goal allowed by the Terriers since their draw with Bucknell University on Sept. 27.
The Terriers responded in the 63rd minute, knotting the score at one off senior midfielder Richie Robinson’s first goal of the season. Freshman midfielder Adam Wright set up the play beautifully, getting past a few Loyola defenders and finding Robinson in the right spot for the equalizer.
With momentum on their side, the Terriers continued to put pressure on the Greyhounds in the second half. Junior forward Mark Wadid, after breaking down the Loyola defense, put a shot on goal in the 68th minute but Sanchez was there to make the save.
On the ensuing corner kick, BU spent 45 seconds in the offensive zone trying to find the back of the net, highlighted by a slightly mistimed bicycle kick attempt from senior defender Jeroen Blugh.
The Terriers have found contributions from a number of different players all season, many of whom have been underclassmen, and Saturday’s game was no different.
In the 74th minute, freshman midfielder Nicki Wieners scored his first collegiate goal that proved to be the difference-maker. Another freshman, midfielder Magnus Benediktsson, collected his team-leading fourth assist on the play.
BU was bolstered by the return of freshman defender Ben Valek in the 77th minute. He had been on the sidelines since sustaining an injury in the match against Harvard University on Sept. 24. With Valek’s return, the Terriers switched back to a four-man back line after trying a number of different formations over the past few weeks.
The Terriers were without sophomore midfielder David Amirani in this one, who has been a force in the midfield for Roberts’ squad.
“[Amirani]’s banged up a little bit so we’ve been changing people in the midfield pretty much all season,” Roberts said, “with Magnus [Benediktsson] and [freshman forward] T.J. [Butzke] and Richie [Robinson] and Ben [Valek], so it doesn’t really change what we do — it just changes the personnel.”
With the help of Valek, BU’s defense held tight the rest of the way, helping them secure the victory and remain atop the Patriot League standings.
“Obviously we give up the early goal, I think off a miscommunication between the keeper and the backs,” Roberts said. “So then you’re down and you’re fighting and you’re scratching. Give the guys credit for their fight and coming back and everything, getting the two goals.”