With just one second remaining in the first half, the Binghamton men’s soccer team allowed what would be the deciding goal from UMass Lowell in front of an intense homecoming crowd at Cushing Field, Mass. Freshman back Austin Kimball converted on his team’s first corner kick of the game, getting his head under the ball and just corralling it into the back of the net to put his team up, 2-1.
Despite the loss, the Bearcats (4-11, 2-2 America East) dominated during the first half. In the opening ten minutes, both graduate student midfielder Tommy Moon and sophomore forward Alex Varkatzas fired shots that rebounded off the crossbar. These early BU attacks lit a fire beneath the River Hawks (7-8-1, 3-1-1 AE), who soon scored the first goal of the game off of a cross from the right end line. Sophomore forward Wuilito Fernandes rifled the ball to senior forward Homero Morais, who evaded the Bearcat defenders and shot the ball into the open net for his fourth goal of the season.
The Bearcats, however, continued to apply steady pressure to the River Hawks. That paid off 20 minutes into the first half, when senior forward Steven Celeste converted a pass from his brother, junior midfielder Bret Celeste. Playing deep in the right corner of the box, Celeste beat River Hawk freshman keeper Austin Kroll to the far post and deposited the ball into the net for his second goal of the season.
As the first half wound down, Steve Celeste created another opportunity, breaking away from the River Hawks’ defense and forcing a one-on-one situation between himself and Kroll. He shot the ball directly at the goal, but also directly at Kroll, who got the save.
“One moment matters and if we don’t play every moment like it matters, you end up on the short side of the stick,” Binghamton head coach Paul Marco said. “It’s been very difficult because we’ve been playing quite well.”
As the end of the first half approached, the score remained knotted at 1-1. With just eight seconds of play left on the clock, the River Hawks forced their first corner kick of the game. Sophomore midfielder Guilherme Rodrigues took the kick, arcing the ball high above the box and enabling Fernandes to head it toward the goal. As the ball bounced before the goal, Kimball and BU sophomore keeper Robert Moewes converged on it, but Kimball dove past Moewes to secure his goal with one second left in the half.
“Without a doubt, the game-changer of the game was with one second left in the first half off of that very soft set piece when the ball hung up in the air for a very long time,” Marco said. “It was disappointing.”
Entering the second half, the tone of the game shifted in UMass Lowell’s favor. The River Hawks controlled the pace throughout, disrupting most of the Bearcats’ offensive efforts. Junior midfielder Tucker Sandercock created a worthy scoring opportunity in the 85th minute, firing a shot that went just wide of left post.
“We still created a couple of very good chances in the second half,” Marco said. “I felt, kind of, like we ran out of time. I felt we needed a little bit more belief going forward into the second half.”
With their win on Saturday, the River Hawks continued their hot streak. They currently share first in conference standings with UMBC. For the Bearcats, Saturday’s one-goal deficit continued their string of close matches this season, with 13 of their last 15 games being decided by a single score. The loss dropped BU to fifth in the AE standings.
“We still have a tremendous amount to play for — we still have three matches left,” Marco said. “We can still advance in the tournament, but we have to secure a victory.”
The Bearcats’ next match is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday against conference-leading UMBC at Retriever Soccer Park in Baltimore, Md.