For the first time in nine seasons and the second time since joining the Patriot League in 2013, the Boston University men’s soccer team is the regular season champion, having defeated the reigning champions, the United States Military Academy, to a score of 2-0 on Wednesday night.
The Terriers (10-3-4, 7-1-1 Patriot League) took a few minutes to find their footing in West Point, New York, with the Black Knights (3-9-4, 1-5-3 PL) threatening early, but once BU deciphered Army’s defensive organization, it was chance after chance in the first half.
“[Army] are really good in their defensive shape, they’re comfortable at times in a lower block, and so credit to our guys for being patient at times and finding chances,” head coach Kevin Nylen said.
Senior forward Eitan Rosen continually found himself in the right places at the right times, as he had all season, managing to individually outshoot the entire Army side 7-6 in the opening half.
For Rosen, however, a couple impressive diving saves from Army freshman goalkeeper Keanu Likewise kept him out of the goals column for the night.
However, his teammate senior midfielder Andrew Rent put a shot through a crowded box and past Likewise to tilt the scoreline in favor of the Terriers in the 16th minute.
“[Rent] has been a great player for this year even though it hasn’t been reflected in stats every game, but it was awesome for him today to actually get some points on the board for himself, ” said graduate student midfielder Quinn Matulis, who assisted the opening goal.
After considerable Terrier possession, Army closed the half the same way they opened it, looming in their final third and dancing around the 18-yard box, but the Terrier defense kept its composure.
“It’s tough to play exactly the way you want on the road, but … the whole [defensive] group put in a shift knowing it was going to take a full 90 minutes,” senior goalkeeper Francesco Montali said.
The final 45 minutes of the regular season began with an improved response from Army, seeing trios of both corner kicks and shots in the first 12 minutes of the frame while BU was unable to record their first shot of the second half until the 62nd minute.
After a few more chances for Army, sophomore defender John Roman picked the ball off a Black Knight, giving it to Rent to carry to the final third, where sophomore forward Alex Bonnington notched his fourth tally of the season, all but confirming a victory and a regular season title for the Terriers.
“You are never going to see [a team like Army] quit, so I thought for our guys to continue to push on speaks volumes,” Nylen said, “[They’re a] tough team to get a result on the road.”
BU secured 22 points with their Wednesday night victory over Army, representing their highest total in their 10-season history in the Patriot League.
“Our team chemistry and a lot of leadership from the older guys who have been together for three years now [have been] the biggest stepping stones for us,” senior defender Griffin Roach said.
From here, BU looks toward another run at the PL Championship with intensified motivation after falling out of the semifinals on penalty kicks just a year ago.
Graduate student midfielder Colin Innes, one of seven Terriers in their final season with the team, those of whom experienced the turnaround from being residents of the bottom of the table to repeat contenders for regular and postseason titles, revealed that, “a big reason why we came back [for our fifth years] is that we felt there was more on the table and some unfinished business from the year before.”
A PL semifinal game will again be hosted at Nickerson Field on Nov. 7, and, given their prime seeding, the Terriers will have home field advantage throughout the tournament: a welcome sight for a team that finished the regular season 6-0-2 at the site.
After celebrating the regular season victory, the Terriers have a few days to prepare before hosting the lowest-remaining seeded team between Lafayette College, Colgate University, Navy and American University after Saturday’s quarterfinals on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
“Guys are excited right now, rightfully so, but when we wake up tomorrow, we know we have PL playoffs ahead of us,” Nylen said. “[We’ll] look forward and be humble and know the hard work and prep … The process to get here has been long, and we have to continue on that path. Our guys will be ready to go.”