Heading into its Homecoming Weekend matchup against UMass Lowell, the Binghamton men’s soccer team (6-5-1, 1-1-0 America East) had one striking parallel with its conference rivals: a player on the Hermann Trophy Watch List, the Heisman Trophy of men’s soccer. This similarity turned out to make all the difference on Saturday night, as UML junior midfielder Wuilito Fernandes — Hermann Trophy Watch List and 2014 America East All-Conference First Team member — notched the game-winning goal in the 79th minute of play to lead the River Hawks (6-5-0, 1-1-0 AE) to a 1-0 victory over the Bearcats.
In the first 45 minutes of play, neither side gained a clear advantage. BU and UML each took three shots, but were otherwise stifled by strong defense on both sides.
“[The River Hawks] started with a lot of guys behind the ball, so every time we tried to get in, they had eight players behind the ball sitting in their own half,” BU head coach Paul Marco said. “So I thought they had a very good game plan.”
Binghamton controlled play during much of the second half, recording seven shots while allowing just three, to finish with a 10-6 shot advantage on the day.
The majority of these chances were provided by graduate student midfielder Pascal Trappe, who took six of BU’s 10 shots. The most viable of these opportunities came in the 77th minute when Trappe struck a low shot toward the left corner of the net, only to be refused on a save made by sophomore goalkeeper Austin Kroll. A scramble ensued inside the box for the loose rebound, but it was forced out-of-bounds by the River Hawk defense.
“It was difficult for us to get behind, but we still had four or five great chances to score goals, so if one of them goes in, I think maybe the game is a little different,” Marco said.
The defining moment of the match came less than two minutes after Trappe’s near-miss. River Hawk senior forward Jay Marchand sent a pass to Fernandes who showcased his exceptional footwork, shooting the ball between the legs of a BU defender before side-stepping and then slotting the ball past junior goalie and fellow Hermann Trophy Watch List member Robert Moewes for his fourth goal of the season.
“Their special guy got the goal tonight,” Marco said.
BU’s “special guy,” meanwhile, was left with little to do. Moewes made just two saves in the first half and none in the second as the Binghamton offense continued its attempt to break through the River Hawk back line.
With under 10 minutes remaining in regulation, it seemed as if BU had done just that when Trappe struck a shot toward the UMass Lowell goal. The season-high crowd of 1,624 erupted, believing that he had just shot the equalizing goal. The ball, however, had flown over the goal and the score remained fixed at 1-0.
“[Trappe was] unlucky in front of [the] goal a couple of times, but [he] created a couple of chances for us, and maybe we should have done a little better,” Marco said.
Although Saturday marked the Bearcats’ fourth shutout of the season, Marco believes that his team put up a decent fight.
“I thought our guys played hard,” he said. “They competed pretty well. We perhaps have a couple of things to work on before we get up to UNH.”
The Bearcats are scheduled to return to action Wednesday against New Hampshire. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Bremner Field in Durham, New Hampshire.