At first it was frustrating. Then it was exciting. But eventually, the Binghamton University men’s soccer game on Saturday night was just downright disappointing.
In the annual Homecoming match, the Bearcats dropped a heartbreaking 2-1 final to the Adelphi University Panthers, allowing the game-winning goal with only 33 seconds remaining in regulation.
Through the entirety of the game’s first half, Adelphi (2-4) managed to hold BU (3-5) scoreless on just two total shots. Despite managing just three shots of their own, the Panthers struck with 21:37 remaining in the half.
Junior midfielder Steven Rivera crossed a ball into the middle of Binghamton’s box and fellow junior James Diana managed to get just enough of his head on it to direct it past sophomore goalie Chris Hayen for the game’s first goal.
Part of the Bearcats’ frustration on offense was due to Adelphi playing four defenders back, which BU head coach Paul Marco has said a lot of opponents have been doing to stop his team. Binghamton began its season on fire offensively, scoring nine goals in its first four games. But in its last four, the team has netted just two goals.
“We weren’t really going after them with the soccer ball and we weren’t playing as fast as we could,” Marco said.
But the tide turned when the second half began, as both teams suddenly found their offensive stride and fired shot after shot on goal. Despite having recorded a total of five shots on goal through the first half, the two teams created 19 opportunities in the second.
“I thought we created enough in the second half,” Marco said. “We decided to try [keeping the strikers central instead of wide] and move the wide midfielders a little bit higher, and I thought that allowed [a number of our players to attack more].”
Multiple acrobatic saves by Hayen kept the score at 1-0 and the Bearcats within striking distance. And numerous times in the second half, it seemed as if Binghamton would be able to deadlock the game as juniors Jake Keegan and Adam Whitehead each recorded legitimate chances.
None of those found the back of the net, though, and as the clock ticked down, the 2,443 fans in attendance grew restless.
But as the 10-minute mark came and went, Binghamton all of the sudden began to create its best opportunities.
With 8:35 to go, senior Ryan Walter saved a long pass from heading out of bounds, dribbled past a defender and fired on goal, but his shot was stopped by goalie Christopher Herrera.
Minutes later on a similar play on the other side of the box, Keegan stopped yet another ball from heading out of bounds and lifted a pass in front of the AU goal while senior Jerome Robinson headed it in for the equalizer.
“I got a great ball from Jake Keegan and I was in between two [defenders],” Robinson said. “So I went up strong and executed.”
The goal, Robinson’s first of the season, came at an opportune time for his team and on a stage of the utmost importance, the Homecoming game.
“It felt really good,” he said, thankful of Marco for having the confidence to substitute him into the game with 10 minutes remaining.
Having tied the match in dramatic fashion, the Bearcats played most of the remaining minutes with confidence and were able to stay neck-and-neck with Adelphi.
The key word being “most.”
With 33 seconds remaining, AU senior Mauricio Mora dribbled to the top of the Binghamton box and around defenders to rocket a shot past Hayen and into the net, sucking the air and energy out of the Bearcats Sports Complex as he put the Panthers ahead to stay, 2-1.
“I knew that time was running out and luckily the ball came to me,” Mora said. “At that moment I just saw two [defenders] rush at me so I knew I didn’t have the open shot so I just pushed it to the side and I knew where I was, so I just went for it.”
When asked how the goal felt given the energy and atmosphere of the night, Mora laughed.
“Honestly? It felt great. I mean, I hate to say it, but I couldn’t feel any better,” he said.
Now losers of their last four out of five games, the Bearcats wish they could say the same.
With the loss in the rearview mirror, Binghamton will look to bounce back in tonight’s match against Syracuse University with kickoff set for 7 p.m.