Men’s Soccer: Terriers beat Army to climb into final playoff spot

By: Rusty Gorelick

BOSTON – On Wednesday evening, the Boston University men’s soccer team earned their first win since October 3 by taking down Army, 1-0, at Nickerson Field.

A solo goal from Kari Petursson provided the only score of the match, propelling BU into sixth place in the Patriot League — one point ahead of the Black Knights for the final playoff spot.

BU (4-9-3 overall, 3-3-1 in PL) made the breakthrough after 11 minutes. When Army tried to clear the ball, Petursson stepped in and intercepted a pass, took a couple dribbles to his left towards the center of the pitch, and slotted the ball into the bottom right corner with ease.

The Terriers utilized a direct style of play, trying to unleash forwards George Abunaw and John Siracuse through the Army back line. It didn’t work — though Petursson’s effort made the difference between the two sides — and head coach Neil Roberts noted he would like to see improvement.

“We have to be a little more direct and try to pin teams in, and see if we can get something out of it,” Roberts said after the game.

Roberts had his side employ the long-ball often; going forward, the Terriers punted the ball upfield all game, and tried to latch onto long balls or catch the Black Knights napping in possession. The BU head honcho also pointed at his team’s injury struggles — several starting players remain sidelined — as a reason for their stagnated play.

“When you lose all your forwards, it’s hard to keep the ball,” Roberts said.

The inexperienced front line did not see much of the ball, but they forced the Army defense into some tough situations that could have led to goals against a sloppier back line.

Coach Roberts even made a major claim regarding how the Scarlet and White will play in the last few regular season games and the playoffs.

“I think possession-based [soccer] for us is done for the year. We just don’t have the players left to be able to do that.”

If the Terrier defense plays as well in its final two Patriot League games as it did on Wednesday, then Roberts should not have to worry about keeping the ball away from the goalmouth. Anchored by senior center back David Riccio, the BU back line kept the Black Knights from having any point-blank opportunities on senior Mike Bernardi’s goal.

Army played a more aesthetically pleasing game, but BU’s strong yet inexperienced defense kept them in check all night. Along with Riccio, freshman Nate Cole held down the other side of central defense while sophomore Max Aunger and freshman Josh Hurwitz marauded the flanks. Hurwitz, a product of the LA Galaxy academy, combined well with Petursson and provided defensive security for the Icelandic winger as he threw himself forward on every possession.

Notably, the BU defense kept the match level thanks to a goal-line clearance by Nate Cole against Oscar Pereira in what was Army’s best chance of the game. Bernardi fended off a few tough shots as well, particularly when he put a hand on a rocket from Army midfielder Christian Takaki.

All in all, it was a vital win for the Terriers as they look to turn around their poor midseason form, overcome injuries, and make the Patriot League playoffs. It is not a win for the team to dwell on for too long, but Roberts and his men will take as much momentum as they possibly can into the last two regular-season Patriot League matches and, if results go their way, the playoffs.

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