By Daniel Priest
SPRINGFIELD – Sunday afternoon was opening day around the NFL, but over at Brock-Affleck field it was also the home opener for the Springfield College men’s soccer team.
The Pride, who started the season 3-1 playing all road games, drew a tough opponent in their home opener. Stevens Institute (3-1) came to Springfield No. 15 in the country according to the NCAA DIII United Soccers Coaches Poll, a poll that Springfield is also receiving votes in.
The teams entered the game evenly matched, with both allowing only three goals on the season and with their only losses coming to ranked opponents. The Pride fell to No. 4 Brandeis 2-0 while the Ducks lost to No. 18 Oneonta 2-1 in double overtime.
On Sunday afternoon it was Stevens who came out on top by a score of 2-1. Despite the loss, first year head coach Tommy Crabill liked his team’s effort after they fell in a 2-0 hole in the game.
“I thought the boys fought really hard in their second half and cleaned up some of those things and made it difficult for Stevens in a lot of ways,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, but we were proud to pull a goal back.”
The first goal in the game came late in the first half. Stevens midfielder Stephen Johnson scored with 2:46 to go in the first half off an assist from Adam Silva. The goal was a tough break for Springfield as the shot deflected off of Xavi Arroyo’s back and rolled into the net giving keeper Camden Spear no chance at making a save.
“ As the game gets close to our end line, we get more desperate, and we expect guys to put their bodies on the line,” Crabill said. Despite the bad bounce on the play, the effort is what the coaching staff wants out of their players. “We’re gonna look forward from here and eliminate goals like that in future games.
The Ducks added another goal at the 68:57 mark when Daniel Aversano beat Stewart Frank for his team’s second goal of the game.
The Pride scored their lone goal at the 74:55 mark when Christian Schneider netted a goal off of an assist from Mateusz Dziemian. The goal was the first of the season for Schneider.
Despite the loss, the matchup with Stevens is already the second time in five games this year that the Pride have faced a ranked opponent. As mentioned, Brandeis was ranked No. 4 in the country in the NCAA DIII United Soccers Coaches Poll while Stevens was No. 15.
The games are a test, but Crabill believes it will help his crew going forward. “It shows you the kind of standard that we shoot for everyday in training, it shows you how you matchup against an opponent like this that you could see in the NCAA Tournament,” he said. “Our guys always get up for games like this.”
Another positive was the fact that the Pride rallied to score a goal after falling into the 2-0 hole. Despite a flat first half in which the team did not generate many chances, they still pushed across a score.
Injuries have hampered Springfield in the early portion of the season. Senior Keon Haji is nursing a torn meniscus and is not expected back for another three weeks.
Today, Springfield had a few more injury issues. Frank hurt himself diving into the post trying to save a free kick shot. Midfielder Mateusz Dziemian also was hurt in a collision with Stevens goalkeeper. Both of them were able to return to the game.
In addition to the injuries, the Pride are still getting familiar with one another on the field due to all of the new faces. “Anytime you’re talking about chemistry, I think you have to dedicate a lot of time and patience to those efforts,” Crabill said.
Despite the transition, Crabill and his staff are preaching patience and adapting to one another through a process. “These first five games we’ve talked quite a bit about building a relationship on the field and communication,” he said.
“Time spent together should hopefully build chemistry. Fortunately we have a cohort of seniors that are tremendous leaders. They’ve been through a lot, and they will push us forward through games like this and games in the future.”
The Pride (3-2) do not return to their home field again for 20 days. Their next matchup is Saturday September 15 when they travel to take on Coast Guard at 11:30 a.m.
*Featured photo courtesy of Sam Leventhal