Leading 1-0 against UMBC, the Binghamton men’s soccer team was looking to secure the win. In the 88th minute, the Bearcats did just that, as redshirt freshman midfielder Anthony Lazaridis peeled down the left wing and sent a grounded cross in front of the goal. Unguarded, freshman midfielder Cooper Sayles tapped the ball into the net and secured a 2-0 win for the Bearcats.
“[Lazaridis] comes in with [Sayles] and the two were terrific for the second goal,” said Binghamton head coach Paul Marco. “I thought both of those two guys were outstanding today.”
Sayles’ goal for BU (2-1-0, 2-1-0 America East) came after a long half of UMBC’s (2-2-1, 1-2-1 AE) possession. Heading into the second half of the game, the Retrievers’ attack became more relentless, earning four corners and four shots in the last 30 minutes alone. Marco also noticed a shift in UMBC’s formation to a more attacking structure.
“[UMBC] changed the way they were playing,” Marco said. “They usually play in a 4-4-2 diamond. Less than halfway into the second half they changed into a 3-5-2 and they just started throwing numbers forward … That kind of pinned us in a little bit.”
Despite the advance from the Retrievers, Binghamton’s backline held strong.
“I thought our back four were great today,” Marco said. “Our two center-backs, [freshman William Noecker] and [sophomore Michael Bush], were outstanding and it’s so nice to see them get better each day.”
While UMBC was the primary attacking force in the second half, the Bearcat offense controlled the flow of the game in the first half. Spearheaded by senior midfielder Noah Luescher, who leads the AE in goals, the Binghamton attack was able to take an early lead, netting the first goal of the match in the eighth minute of play.
“I thought the guys were outstanding today,” Marco said. “I thought everyone competed hard, stuck to the game plan. We put in some ideas for them the last couple days in training and the guys embraced that terrifically.”
The goal came when Bush sent in a cross from the right side of the field. The ball came off the head of a UMBC player and bounced at Luescher’s feet. The Bearcat held off his defender and took a driven shot toward the back post with his left foot, out of reach for the UMBC keeper and into the back of the net.
“Luescher makes a goal out of nothing,” Marco said. “He’s running away from the goal with the ball and turns and finishes it far post on a really good goalkeeper. It’s just a spectacular goal.”
Although Luescher’s goal gave BU the edge for the half, UMBC still had chances to equalize. The Retrievers’ closest opportunity came in the 24th minute when a shot from UMBC sophomore midfielder Ryan Becher came from inside the box, forcing sophomore goalkeeper P.J. Parker to make a difficult save. Parker made two saves from close range to earn his second clean sheet of the season.
Despite not getting onto the scoresheet, Marco believes that sophomore midfielder Ethan Homler had a huge impact for BU.
“[Homler] was great up front,” Marco said. “He put in a shift today, relentless against the opponent in possession, out of possession … one of the unsung heroes of today’s game.”
The Bearcats have now played half of their schedule and are 2-1 at the season’s midpoint.
“I think our level of competitiveness, the way we compete, is really good, and I think this team has another level or two to them,” Marco said. “I think the more fit the group becomes, the higher the level of soccer we’re going to play and the higher the level of competitiveness we’re going to give the game.”
Up next, Binghamton will play its rescheduled match against NJIT on Tuesday, March 23. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at the Lubetkin Field in Newark, New Jersey.