Soccer, Sports

Red cards, strict calls give young Terriers a chance to shine

Freshman forward Matt McDonnell tallied his first collegiate goal on Tuesday. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Freshman forward Matt McDonnell tallied his first collegiate goal on Tuesday. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The Boston University men’s soccer team took advantage of an early lead and two red cards to defeat local rival Northeastern University 3-0 Tuesday night at Nickerson Field.

Despite first-half goals from BU (2-1) offensive leaders senior forward Felix De Bona and junior midfielder Anthony Viteri, the person on the field who had the greatest impact on the game was the referee.

It all began in the 28th minute, when Northeastern (1-4) defender Moustapha Samb made a sliding challenge on Terrier sophomore midfielder Magnus Benediktsson.

When Samb got back on his feet, he was promptly given a red card. Not only did Samb react by tossing his hands in the air and yelling at the referee, but the entire Huskies bench joined him in criticizing the call.

The referee gestured that Samb slid into Benediktsson with both cleats up, which prompted the red card. Terriers head coach Neil Roberts defended the controversial call.

“It was legitimate,” Roberts said. “The problem is that a lot of college referees don’t call that, but any place else in the world it would have been a red card.”

After pleading his case, Samb left the game visibly frustrated, kicking a chair on the sideline before sitting down. After Samb was sent off, Northeastern head coach Chris Gbandi was given a yellow card for arguing the call.

While Samb’s red card was controversial, the Huskies’ next red card was blatant. Senior Khesanio Hall, arguably Northeastern’s biggest offensive threat, committed a foul against junior midfielder Adam Sheikali.

Hall, who has experience playing for the Senior Jamaican National Team, was dribbling down the side of the pitch when Sheikali stole the ball from him. As Sheikali turned to go in the other direction, Hall slid right into the back of his legs, giving the Huskies their second red card in less than six minutes.

The referee may have been strict, but he was consistent, as evidenced by 31 total fouls and seven yellow cards — five for BU and two for Northeastern.

With an unforgiving referee and the five yellow cards, Roberts exercised caution in managing his lineup.

“I was worried about someone getting a red card,” Roberts said. “After two red cards, I’m sure the referee was trying to control the game, so anytime somebody went near somebody, it was a yellow card.”

Roberts also admitted that the lingering threat of a red card and the frequent substitutions threw off the Terriers, who had trouble finding a rhythm in a whistle-filled second half.

“There was no flow to the second half,” Roberts said. “It was a strange situation. [Playing two men up] didn’t affect the usage of players, it was the same players just in different positions.”

The bright side of this game full of whistles was that the score and Northeastern’s two-man disadvantage enabled Roberts to turn to his bench and give underclassmen more playing time.

Roberts said the fear of one of his key players getting a red card made him quicker to turn to the bench.

“We used more players because of the score and yellow cards,” Roberts said. “I would’ve liked to have gotten more guys in, but the game was hectic.”

Among those that came off the bench were freshmen midfielders Jasper Verplancke, Jerry Ozor and Satchel Cortet, along with freshman forward Matt McDonnell. All four had key contributions on the offensive end in the second half, with McDonnell providing the biggest highlight.

The Smithtown, New York native was on the receiving end of a perfect cross from senior forward Mark Wadid. McDonnell received the ball right in front of Husky goalkeeper Matt Dabrowski and headed it into the net for his first career goal as a Terrier.

“It was a great feeling,” McDonnell said, “like a weight off my shoulders.”

Following significant playing time in both Wednesday and Saturday’s wins, McDonnell and other freshmen have shown not only that they belong, but that they can have valuable contributions off the bench for an already dynamic BU offense.

“My role is to work hard, limit my mistakes, take advantage of the time that I have and make the most for the team as a freshman,” McDonnell said.

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