By: Akshai Wadhwani October 14, 2017
BOSTON — The Boston University men’s soccer team was unable to make it a clean sweep against Loyola Maryland on Saturday, falling, 2-1, in a fiercely fought and highly entertaining contest.
The Terriers conceded two goals in quick succession despite controlling possession in the first 20 minutes of the match.
Greyhound midfielder Barry Sharifi broke the deadlock in the 19th minute; a low cross from the left side was ineffectively dealt with by the Terrier defense, as several players failed to clear the loose ball. BU left back Elias Lampis attempted to head the ball away but instead put it straight into the path of Greyhound midfielder Barry Sharifi, who ripped a thunderous half-volley into the bottom left corner. Sharifi continues to lead the Loyola offense with four goals and three assists on the season.
The opening goal sparked an offensive onslaught from the Greyhounds, and it took all of 90 seconds for them to find the net again. BU once again displayed complacency at the back, as a corner kick from Loyola’s Gabriel Carlsson sailed over several mistimed jumps before falling at the feet of Mickey Watson on the penalty spot. The junior gave the visitors a 2-0 lead with a quick shot past BU’s Michael Bernardi.
The second half was an entirely different story for BU. Propelled by renewed offensive energy, the Terriers came out with immediate pressure on the Loyola back line.
The Greyhounds withstood until the 51st minute, when sophomore midfielder Mana Chavali halved the deficit. Terrier forward Eric Mubang worked the ball out wide to Toti Knutsson, who picked out Matt McDonnell with an excellent cross from the right wing. McDonnell put a header across goal, which took a slight deflection and made its way to Chavali, who slotted home from an unmissable range.
The goal increased the Terriers’ confidence going forward, and they continued to control the play. BU’s scoring opportunities came on a trio of chances, starting with a corner kick from Josh Barkoff that forced Loyola keeper Chase Vosvick into a goal-line save.
Coach Neil Roberts complimented the positive play of Barkoff after the game.
“We put Josh in [in the second half], and Josh really was a force in the center of the park,” Roberts said of the junior. “I think he did a good job of controlling the center…that’s where it [the offense] all started.”
Later, a Chavali tore down the left flank on a long run, where he beat two Loyola defenders before shooting narrowly wide of the left post. The Terriers last great chance came on a one-on-one opportunity for McDonnell, where the Terrier forward put his shot straight at Vosvick, who made the save to maintain Loyola’s advantage.
Emphatic appeals for a penalty could be seen from the BU bench in the 77th minute, when McDonnell appeared to be taken down off the ball by the Greyhounds’ Sam Carter as a cross came into the box. No call was made by the officials, to the overt displeasure of head coach Neil Roberts.
The last five minutes of the match saw end-to-end play, with both teams launched hectic counterattacks. The Terriers were desperately searching for an equalizer while Loyola looked for an insurance goal to ice the game. In the end, neither team was able to find the back of the net, and the match finished 2-1.
“We regrouped and did a good job in the second half,” Head Coach Roberts said of the Terriers’ rally. “We gave [Loyola] maybe a little too much respect in the first half…I really like what we did in the second half.”
The Terriers can take many positives from the loss. Not only was their offense immensely better in the second half, but they also did a much better job defending from the end of the first half on. Although their first 45 minutes was ultimately one to forget, the improvement shown from that point on was notable.
On the individual side, the Terriers saw admirable performances from several players. Knuttson provided a constant offensive outlet on the right wing, and delivered several dangerous-looking crosses, including the one that led to BU’s goal. Mubang and Barkoff came off the bench and immediately provided the Terriers with the offensive spark needed to get back into the game.
The match stood out because of its physicality. There were numerous shoulder-to-shoulder battles for the ball throughout, as well as tussles off the ball and wrestling among players as crosses came into the penalty area. However, the foul totals were surprisingly low — 12 for the Terriers and seven for the Greyhounds.
When asked about the game’s physicality, McDonnell commented, “That’s kind of just our style at this point.”
“We’re just a physical team this year. It’s one of our strengths,” McDonnell added. “We went out there trying to be the physical presence today, and I think we were. We just came up unlucky, scoring wise.”
The loss interrupted the Terriers’ unblemished record in the Patriot League, consisting of four shutout wins in their last four games. The loss also snapped an undefeated streak at Nickerson Field that lasted almost two months. Loyola’s victory brings the Greyhounds on the same level with BU at the top of the league, with each team now 4-1 in conference play.
Next Up: The Terriers get a few days’ rest before heading to nearby Brookline to face Northeastern on Tuesday at 6 P.M.