It’s been an odd start to the 2014 season for Boston University men’s soccer senior forward Dominique Badji.
Through the first five games of the year, Badji — BU’s (4-2-1) leading scorer with six goals in 2013 — was held to zero goals, despite pacing the team with 28 shots.
However, over the last two matches, the former Patriot League All-Conference Second Team forward has played up to his standards.
“If you could get more guys to put in the work that he puts in, I know he gets goals, but he holds the ball first, he chases people down,” said BU coach Neil Roberts after the Terriers’ 2-2 draw against Princeton University Saturday. “The amount of energy he put in today was unbelievable.”
On Sept. 16 against Northeastern University, Badji recorded his first goal of the season in the 16th minute when he powered the ball into the right side of the net. The Dakar, Senegal native added an assist later in the match when he fed the ball to freshman midfielder David Amirani for the game-winner in the 69th minute.
While Badji broke out of his offensive slump against the Huskies (2-5), he took his game to another level in the Terriers’ next tilt Saturday.
Playing a dangerous team in Princeton (1-2-2), Badji did all he could to help his team win.
In the eighth minute of the match, Badji received the ball from sophomore midfielder David Asbjornsson on the right side of a goal that Badji placed just out of goalkeeper Ben Hummel’s reach for the score.
“The first one, I just had my head down and wanted to go to goal,” Badji said. “I know that if I shot on goal, it would go in.”
Later, in the 21st minute of play, Badji seemed to get hit going up for a ball and collapsed on the ground. He would come out of the game with a bloody jersey.
“He takes a beating out there, and that worries us, that he physically takes a beating that much,” Roberts said. “You just cannot do that every game.”
In the 29th minute, Badji returned to the game donning the No. 21 jersey of freshman defender Shane Staudle instead of his usual No. 14. It did not take long for Badji’s presence to be felt yet again.
In the 36th minute, Amirani floated a cross into the box that looked as though it would be wasted, but Badji flew into the area and headed the ball home for a goal in spectacular fashion.
“Second one, I just saw the ball in the air and had a head-on collision. I did not even think twice about putting a head on it,” Badji said. “He [Roberts] is always trying to get me to stay away from tough challenges, but in the middle of the game with the adrenaline rushing, it’s kind of tough.”
Badji continued to make plays in the Tigers’ zone — looking for his third goal on the day. In the 56th minute, Badji went down yet again, but he stayed in the match.
When asked if staying out of the game was an option for him at any point, Badji was adamant in his response.
“No way,” Badji said. “I knew it was not my head. It was my lip, and I was hoping they could get it to stop [bleeding] real quick because I was not really hurting.”
Badji is now the clear leader on the team in terms of offense, with eight points off three goals and two assists.
His unquestionable work ethic, combined with his determination to put himself in the best places possible to score, has made Badji one of the Terriers’ most valuable players in 2014.
“You never know. You just go hard and maybe the ball will bounce your way and it’s an easy goal,” Badji said. “I’m just trying to help my team win in any way I can.”