By: Rusty Gorelick
BOSTON – The Boston University men’s soccer team will host Bucknell in a 2 p.m. match on Sunday afternoon in the former’s penultimate Patriot League contest.
The Terriers leapfrogged Army — after defeating them, 1-0, on Wednesday — into the sixth and final playoff spot in the Patriot League standings. BU and Bucknell now sit level on points with ten each, so Sunday’s fixture presents an opportunity for both sides to gain some breathing room by climbing to fifth place.
BU earned its first win since Oct. 3 in its victory over the Black Knights on Wednesday, and it will try to carry that momentum into this weekend’s match against the Bison — who themselves lost to Army last Saturday, 3-1.
The Bison also dropped their most recent contest, a 1-0 battle against Lehigh — the latter of whom has also defeated BU this season. Bucknell has conceded one goal per game on average, while the Terriers have scored 17 goals in 16 Patriot League matches.
Based on their last match, BU’s young back line should have some confidence. Center backs Nate Cole and David Riccio had a solid performance, keeping a clean sheet and preventing the Black Knights from finding their way close to senior Mike Bernardi’s goal. Freshman Josh Hurwitz and sophomore Max Aunger had good games from the fullback positions, too.
“We had young kids back there,” head coach Neil Roberts said after Wednesday’s result. “We had two freshmen and a sophomore, and they were very, very composed.”
The Terriers are missing many key players, so minute roster details will make a difference in their final two regular season games as the team pushes for a spot in the Patriot League playoffs. Roberts has to prepare his team thoroughly to break down the fourth-best defense in the league.
BU has had trouble scoring this season due to the absence of key forward Matt McDonnell, the team’s top scorer with six goals in five games played. The Terriers must play stingy defense against Bucknell, and they have a great chance to do so against a team that has scored 12 goals in all games this season — the second-lowest scoring tally in the Patriot League.
BU’s active forwards — freshman John Siracuse and sophomore George Abunaw — will have to work hard to track down long passes and force Bison defenders into turnovers in their own area.
One area in which Bucknell may appear to hold the cards is the all-time series. The Bison remain undefeated in seven meetings with the Terriers; however, the last four matchups have all resulted in draws (though that includes the two sides’ 2016 playoff meeting, which is technically listed as a draw but in reality saw the Bison win 4-1 on penalties). Last year, the teams fought to a goalless result in Lewisburg.
Kickoff from Nickerson Field is set for 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.