Sports

WHITROCK: A date with the Danes

For a sport with such a big net, you’d think soccer teams would score more goals. I know better than to assume it’s easy to maneuver a ball downfield, evade 10 defenders and outsmart a determined goalkeeper, but how hard can it really be?

Besides, I have some firsthand evidence. I played a couple games of intramural soccer last spring and saw plenty of goals scored. Sure, they all ended up in our net, but still.

My point is that I’m glad to see the men’s soccer team have the same mindset. If you don’t believe me, check the box scores. The Terriers have scored 13 goals in their last five games. For purposes of comparison, last year’s team didn’t even reach 13 goals until the first game of October, and it managed to tally exactly that many between then and the end of the campaign.

Why do I bring this up? Because it’s that pivotal part of the season, the beginning of conference play, and the Terriers’ next opponent also enjoys scoring goals in bunches. Also, the opponent happens to be the Great Danes — a team nobody likes that hails from a city nobody likes, which happens to be the capital of a state that nobody in Massachusetts likes. I don’t even like Albany, and I’m from New York.

Albany has 20 goals in eight total games this season, with 14 of those coming in the four most recent contests. Meanwhile, the Great Dane defense has shut out opponents four times and allowed only one goal two more times. To be fair, Albany was also handed a painful 6-0 loss by a weak San Diego State team and has enjoyed a much easier schedule than the Terriers, but the Great Danes’ scoring record is still impressive.

After a rough start to the season, easier competition and improved offensive efficiency have BU bringing some welcome momentum into Saturday’s meeting with Albany. The improved results — three wins and a tie in the last five games after starting the season 0-3-1 — leave the Terriers with a respectable 3-4-2 record in non-conference play.

On the other hand, it’s difficult to say whether the problems the Terriers encountered this season have really been fixed. When BU wins, it’s by a landslide, but the Terriers have yet to win a game while scoring fewer than four goals. Four goals might be necessary this Saturday, but down the road BU will have to find a way to grind out close wins.

But back to this weekend’s matchup. How can the Terriers start conference play on the right foot? Weak competition or not, the Great Danes’ offense is running on all cylinders, so it’s natural to start from the rear.

Yeah, I’m talking about Hrafn Davidsson. The BU goalkeeper has performed fairly well this season, holding opponents to one goal or less in six out of nine games thus far. And while the offense’s firepower has yet to emerge on the road, Davidsson and the defense have been fairly consistent regardless of the venue with a 1.00 GAA on the road and a 1.20 GAA at home.

For those of you who may be less statistically inclined, Davidsson also has the awesome name factor working for him. By my reckoning, only midfielder and fellow Icelandic native Jon Jonsson has a better name. I’m not sure what this has to do with beating Albany, but it ought to count for something.

The Terrier defense hasn’t been remarkable, but it hasn’t been a weakness, either, and that ought to be enough to keep BU in the thick of things.

Skipping ahead to the forwards, BU has an absolute gem in Englishman Shaun Taylor. With five goals in his last two home games, Albany’s primary task in this game will be to keep him under wraps as much as possible.

With a red-hot Taylor up front, the Terriers have an explosive target capable of scoring at any moment. Anyone the Terriers put up front will have room to operate solely due to Taylor’s presence — and BU has other weapons at forward as well. Whether BU can utilize these weapons effectively will depend on the midfielders.

BU has attacking options in the midfield as well. Defending America East Rookie of the Year Aaron O’Neal is every bit as dangerous as Taylor. Samuel Appiah might not be the equal of Ghanaian national team captain Stephen Appiah — no relation — but BU’s Appiah is capable nonetheless. And of course, there’s the aforementioned Jon Jonsson. Plus, freshman phenom Michael Bustamante scored his first collegiate goal against Harvard Tuesday.

When Saturday comes, expect offense. I’m sure Albany has some capable defenders, but the recent 6-0 loss is a huge black mark on its record — the Terriers haven’t lost by more than one goal yet, despite playing four ranked opponents. Besides, it’s Albany, and I can’t pick Albany to win. Ever. Not while their fans insist on wearing those afros to basketball games. It will be 3-1 Terriers. That’s a guarantee.

Matt Whitrock, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, is a weekly columnist for The Daily Free Press. He can be reached at [email protected]

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