By: Dave Souza
Boston University Men’s Soccer took on Army West Point on senior night at Nickerson Field with the Terriers needing a win to remain in the hunt for a spot in the Patriot League tournament. However, before Saturday’s contest, the Terriers were more focused on something else than their crucial penultimate matchup with the Black Knights.
“We wanted to motivate [the seniors] and let them know that this might be their last time playing in a competitive game,” said junior Anthony Viteri. “Around the locker room we posted pictures of them when they were young – when they were like five-years old. . . .sometimes you get away from the love of the game and we tried to just get that passion they had when they were little kids and had no cares in the world.”
With fresh motivation to win and enjoy the game, the Terriers (7-6-2, 3-3-2 PL) turned in arguably their best performance of the season, besting the Black Knights (8-6-2, 4-3-1 PL) 1-0 and keeping their postseason hopes alive.
The deciding goal came in the opening moments of the second half as Viteri notched his seventh of the season in the 47th minute. The play began when David Amirani spun around an Army midfielder before sending a perfectly placed through ball in between three West Point defenders directly to the feet of Viteri. The sure-footed junior received the pass before quickly sliding a shot past a diving Justin Stoll to give BU the 1-0 lead.
“The defensive midfielder wasn’t marking me up so I was isolated one-on-one with the center back and David just played an unbelievable ball,” said Viteri. “It was mainly the ball, it wasn’t really the finish.”
The lone goal proved to be enough for the Terriers as goalkeeper Matt Gilbert recorded his fourth shutout in his last five contests. In Saturday’s game, the senior keeper made four saves, including a crucial one in the game’s dying minutes.
With a little under three minutes to go, Army made a final push to net the equalizer. Senior forward Nick Williams corralled the ball inside the BU box and had an open shot on goal before Gilbert sprawled out to make the save, punching away the strike with a flail of his left arm.
“[Gilbert] is playing the way we were hoping he was going to play all year,” said head coach Neil Roberts. “I’m happy for him that he’s showing what a really good goalkeeper he is.”
The Terrier defense kept the Black Knights’ top two scorers at bay for the entirety of the game. Williams and freshman phenom Rex Epps have combined for 14 goals on the season, but could only manage two shots on goal on Saturday. Coach Roberts credits BU’s late stretch of success to the Terriers’ stingy defense – which has allowed one goal in the last five contests.
“We were just prepared for them, we know they’re fast,” said Roberts of Williams and Epps. “Collectively we did well. It’s not really defending against the strikers, it’s defending against the ball played into them, which our guys did a great job of.”
After their defense faltered early in the season, the Terriers have vaulted themselves into fifth place in the Patriot League because of a strong back line that has anchored the Terriers to a 3-1-1 conference record since October 8.
Viteri came out of the contest with a leg cramp in the 61st minute, but returned in the 73rd minute and finished the game. Senior Felix De Bona also came out due to injury with about 11 minutes remaining after being on the receiving end of a rough kick in the offensive zone. While De Bona was up and walking on the sideline by game’s end, he did not return to the contest.
With six days between their last two games, the Terriers have the opportunity to nurse their bumps and bruises as they gear up to play last-place Navy on Friday, November 4. The top six teams qualify for the Patriot League playoffs, giving the Terriers a chance to sew up a postseason birth with a win over the Midshipmen. And while Roberts expressed satisfaction with the win on Saturday, he declared that his squad would not be content without earning another win..
“I’m happy that they’re starting to show what they’re capable of doing,” said Roberts. “This team has been working real hard, it’s just they weren’t getting rewarded for it. . . .but they hung in their and they kept fighting and it’s hopefully starting to turn. But, we aren’t there yet. We’re almost there, we’re closer than we were yesterday, but we’ve still got one more.”