Facing the second half of the Patriot League schedule, the Boston University men’s soccer team needed to start stringing together some victories to stay in contention for a spot in the conference tournament and the Terriers are doing just that.
BU traveled to the nation’s capital on Friday and took home a 2-1 victory versus Patriot League foe American University for the third straight season.
The Terriers (2-9-1, 2-3 Patriot League) relied on a brace from senior forward Matt McDonnell and strong defense to shut down the fast-paced Eagles (1-8-2, 1-3-1 PL) on the road.
The tempo was set early by the Eagles with quick passes and long runs down the field but the Terriers countered that with possession-heavy soccer.
BU head coach Neil Roberts said BU’s fitness was a key factor in slowing American down.
“I think that we were just a little fitter than they were,” Roberts said. “They put a lot of energy out which the home team will usually do in the first half. We were really able to weather the storm, they didn’t really have anything on goal.”
The BU defense held strong for junior goalkeeper Michael Stone and held the Eagles to only two shots on goal and allowed only one corner kick. The Terriers had eight shots on goal with three coming from McDonnell.
The Eagles struck first in the 17th minute after a foul was called outside the BU penalty box. The Terrier defenders prepared to clear a high cross, but the Eagles sent in a cross on the ground that found junior back Oscar McConnell at the penalty spot who beat Stone to score his first goal of the season and put AU up 1-0.
Roberts has said all season that set pieces are a weakness for BU and he said the goal in this game was a blown assignment.
“They [the players] just missed an assignment, it was a play we had on tape,” Roberts said. “We knew it was coming, we just had somebody in the wrong spot and they took advantage of it.”
American had several possessions inside the BU box, but the Terrier defense was able to hold strong and force harmless shots that sailed well over the crossbar.
American senior goalkeeper John Mino made a costly mistake in the 33rd minute that gifted a goal to BU. The ball was played back to Mino, who was approaching it slowly which allowed McDonnell to bear down on Mino, who missed the ball and allowed McDonnell to net an easy goal for his sixth of the season.
American had a great offensive opportunity cut short at the end of the first half, the Eagles lobbed a through ball to two open players on BU’s left flank and had numbers coming up for support, but the halftime horn sounded and the Terriers escaped unscathed.
The pace of the game slowed down to start the second half, BU began to draw out longer possessions, limiting the amount of runs down the field that AU could make.
McDonnell’s relentless play would be rewarded once again in the 67th minute, when freshman midfielder Jorge Lopez Lacu threaded a pass into the American penalty box that found McDonnell slicing diagonally into the box where the senior notched his second goal of the game off a first-touch shot.
Stone would be called upon in the 77th minute when American earned its first corner of the afternoon. The corner kick sailed over the box and found an AU player who fed an Eagle standing directly in front of Stone. Stone made the save at point-blank range and then blocked the rebound shot that was eventually waived because of an offsides call.
The Eagles would not go away quietly, they pushed the ball into BU’s penalty area multiple times in the final minutes but the Terriers held strong to preserve the win.
BU returns home to Nickerson Field on Tuesday to face cross-river rival Harvard University and then return to Patriot League play on Oct 20. in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania when the Terriers face Bucknell University.
Roberts said the team has greatly improved and it shows in recent results.
“The group that we have playing is fighting really hard,” Roberts said. “They’re organized, especially the midfield which is playing better than its played from the beginning of the year. Now we’ve got to keep that going and improve on it a bit for the stretch run in the conference.”