In its first home matches of the season, the Binghamton University men’s soccer team split two games, dropping the first on a late goal to Central Connecticut State University before turning the tide to sink the Rider University Broncs on a late goal of its own.
Binghamton (3-3) didn’t start off the weekend like it wanted to against CCSU (3-3). After a fairly even first half in which the Bearcats held a 5-3 shot advantage, the team allowed a crucial turnover and goal in the 72nd minute to junior Alpha Dioubate.
“Our center back had clear possession of the ball and just underplayed the ball back to the goalkeeper,” Binghamton head coach Paul Marco said. “We just can’t make those mistakes … [giving] them the ball right in front of the goal. Of course he’s going to score when he just has the goalkeeper to beat.”
Just days after Marco had downplayed the idea of his entire offense relying on star junior Jake Keegan, who has emerged as a leader on offense, Keegan was bottled up against CCSU and was unable to get a shot off, perhaps feeding into Binghamton’s offensive frustration on Friday.
“I don’t think they just did a great job [defending] Jake, I think they did a pretty good job on all of us,” Marco said. He also noted that he felt it was necessary for his team to feel the “sting” of Friday’s loss before shifting its attention to Sunday’s game against Rider (1-5).
But through most of their second match of the weekend, the Bearcats looked flat and it seemed as if the sting of Friday’s loss was lingering. Binghamton managed multiple scoring opportunities in the first half but each was turned away by the Rider defense.
With just over 22 minutes remaining, an exhibition of passing by the Bearcats found Keegan cutting toward the goal, one-on-one with goalie junior Jason Giordano. As Keegan’s window of opportunity was closing, he attempted to fire a shot on goal but was met by a sliding Giordano, who deflected the ball away to end the chance.
Numerous free kicks taken by junior Adam Whitehead made their way into the box, but each was met by solid Rider defense as the teams headed to the locker rooms deadlocked at zero.
Junior and Binghamton goalie Anthony Sokalski wasn’t tested until seven minutes had gone by in the second half when he was forced to make the first of his three saves on the day.
Rider found itself with numerous legitimate scoring chances in the second.
With 31 minutes remaining and following a turnover in the BU defensive zone, junior Ryan Fitzgerald fired at the net but the ball was met and redirected by the fingertips of an outstretched Sokalski. The Broncs were forced to settle for a corner kick but were unable to convert.
One minute later Rider nearly got on the board again as freshman Matt Veltri’s rocket of a shot cleared the head of Sokalski but met the post.
Binghamton was also able to get its share of opportunities in the second half but each were turned away with spectacular saves from Giordano.
“Their goalkeeper was outstanding. He made some unbelievable saves — great reactionary saves,” Marco said.
But finally, with three minutes remaining, senior captain Ryan Walter found himself deep in Rider territory. He fired on goal and Giordano got his hands on it, but the power of Walter’s shot proved to be too much as the ball bounced into the back of the net for the game’s lone goal.
“Keegan was wide open on the back post so I tried to play it to him and it ended up going in anyway, so a goal’s a goal,” Walter said. “Friday we didn’t get a goal so coming into today we really wanted to get a win and coming down the stretch we were still [tied] 0-0.”
“Any time you play a ball early and behind the defense it’s difficult for them to defend,” Marco said. “You don’t know if it’s a shot, you don’t know if it’s a cross across the [front of the goal] and I think [Walter] just played it hard across the back of [the defense] at the frame and it was a fantastic goal.”
Having split its first two home matches, the team is set to travel to Cornell University tomorrow to take on the Big Red in one of Binghamton’s final non-conference matchups. The Bearcats are then set to return home for their annual homecoming game, scheduled to take place at 7:30 p.m on Saturday, Sept. 24 against Adelphi University.