By Akshai Wadhwani September 3, 2017
BOSTON, MA – The 11th annual Terrier Tailgate on Sunday saw an exhibition match between Boston University and the Haitian Olympic national team end even at 2-2. Fans gathered at Nickerson Field from 3 P.M. onward to enjoy complimentary food, drinks, t-shirts, and rally towels before kickoff. A large crowd of the Terrier faithful filled the bleachers alongside a sizable group of Haiti supporters, braving cold, overcast weather and fluctuating rainfall.
Haiti gained momentum and fought back in the second half after being down 2-0. They eventually saw their efforts come to fruition twice within five minutes.
A defensive miscommunication led to BU substitute goalkeeper Bjorn Kammholz fumbling a loose ball, which then fell on the edge of the penalty area to forward Jonel Desire. The Haitian number nine took a touch to get around Terrier center back David Riccio, then drilled a low shot past a scrambling Kammholz and into the bottom right corner to halve the Terrier lead in the 67th minute.
Five minutes later, Desire, who was undoubtedly Haiti’s man of the match, found himself unmarked during a counterattack. After cutting inside from the right flank and charging through the middle, Cherenfant found him on the left side of the box; Desire then fired a left-footed effort into the bottom right corner for his second goal of the match, evening the score line at 2-2.
The Terriers kicked off the first half amidst a light drizzle, setting off a slow-paced start to the match. The first five minutes passed with little offense, both teams preferring instead to move the ball around their own halves. After that period, the Haitians began to go on the attack; BU followed suit, and created the first notable opportunity of the match in the 10th minute.
Midfielder Nicki Wieners made his way into the right edge of the penalty area before slipping a square ball to T.J. Butzke, whose left-footed shot on target was blocked by a Haitian center back. The Terriers continued to press and generated another opportunity four minutes later, with Wieners putting a pass through the middle for Jerry Ozor. The Ghanaian took the ball into the box and fired a low shot just wide of the left-hand post.
Haiti answered with some pressure of their own, beginning to employ the flanks more to their advantage on offense. In the 16th minute, Haitian attacking midfielder Woodensky Cherenfant charged through the left side of the BU defense and into the penalty area before having his attempt smothered by Terrier keeper Michael Bernardi, who rushed out of his goal to make the save.
The visitors’ best chance of the first half came in the 23rd minute when, attacking on the right wing, midfielder Jhon Miky Benchy Estama chipped a through ball over the top to forward Severe Verilus. The Haitian attacker raced clear into the box and attempted to put his shot through the legs of Bernardi, who saw the ball deflect off the inside of his thigh and onto the left post.
From that point until the half-hour mark, the match retained a high intensity with both sides creating scoring opportunities. In the 27th minute, Haiti’s Estama received the ball on the right flank, then cut inside to the edge of the box and put a curving attempt just over the right corner of the goal.
Two minutes later, the Terriers’ Ozor was put in behind the Haitian defense by an aerial ball over the middle. Upon entering the penalty area, he unleashed a shot straight into the chest of goalkeeper Luis Valendi Odelus; the rebound fell back to the BU forward, whose second attempt struck Odelus’s upper arm and bounced wide of the right post for a corner kick.
The slow pace which finished the first half remained to start the second, until a flurry of action began in the 53rd minute with a breakthrough by the Terriers. Timing his run perfectly against Haiti’s high back line, BU forward Esen Harris sprinted through the middle to receive a lobbed pass from Ozor. He then dribbled around Odelus, as the latter charged out of his penalty area, and side-footed the ball into the empty Haitian net to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
BU doubled their advantage two minutes later, when Ozor found Eric Mubang wide open in the right center of the box; the senior forward slotted the ball home into the bottom left corner to make it 2-0.
Mubang, who scored his first of the season on Sunday, commented on the improvements in attack.
“It’s good to find a way to put the things that you’ve been working on in training into action in a game,” he said. “We work really hard on attacking plays…and it was good to see it materialize today”.
Coach Neil Roberts added that the Terriers’ defense also showed improvement.
“It was good to get out of a half zero-zero,” Roberts remarked. “That was key for us.”
The BU defense rose to the challenge after the Haitian rally. Terrier defenders Riccio, Skyler Fuchsman, Josh Barkoff, and Ian Richling made some excellent tackles to keep the opposition at bay.
Off the pitch, an intense bout of rainfall starting in the 39th minute, striking a blow to the home team’s fan base. As the rain began pelting the stands, the vast majority of the Terrier supporters made a hasty—and rather comical—retreat for the exits. By halftime, BU’s support was reduced to a small number of soaked red shirts dispersed across the bleachers.
Despite the downpour, the Terriers performed impressively against what proved to be a very formidable Haitian team. The BU offense, led by the goals from Harris and Mubang, put on perhaps their best display of the season.
Mubang, a senior at BU, was humbled by the chance to play against an opponent of professional caliber.
“[Haiti are] a really good team. They’re athletic…They’ve got a lot of individual flair. It was a really good experience. It was an experience I’m going to remember for the rest of my life”.
Next Up: The Terriers get back on the road to face SUNY Albany at Bob Ford Field on Sunday evening.