Men’s Soccer Hoping to Build on Last Year’s Success
Terriers open at home tomorrow against UMass
The men’s soccer Terriers host UMass in their home opener tomorrow, and they’re hoping to exceed last season’s success. The team not only posted back-to-back 12-win seasons for the first time since 1994, but ended a seven-year NCAA Tournament drought.
Alas, the Terriers lost to UConn 3-1 in the NCAA opening round. That followed a heartbreaking 2-0 overtime defeat by American University in the Patriot League championship game.
“For the team, the goal is to win the Patriot League and hopefully win the national tournament,” says tri-captain Felix De Bona (CGS’15, CAS’17), who led the Terriers in goals and points last season. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve had some unlucky years. We lost in the league final, and we lost in the semifinal, when I felt like we were probably the better team in the conference. This year we have to show it.”
Despite a 2-3 loss to Boston College in their season opener August 28, the Terriers say the game provided some valuable lessons. “It’s always tough facing BC first,” says De Bona. “But the benefit of doing that is that we can learn. And when we play a high-quality team, we can learn from our mistakes and fix them, and that way we’ll have a much better time against teams that aren’t as good as they are.”
De Bona and tri-captain Anthony Viteri (CGS’16, Questrom’18)—both named to the watch list for the 2016 MAC Hermann Trophy, the most coveted award in college soccer—head an offense that returned 11 of last season’s top-12 point scorers. BU’s is one of only four programs in the nation to have two players named to the watch list.
Last year De Bona was ranked third and Viteri seventh in the Patriot League in goals. Viteri scored three game-winners, good for fourth-most in the conference. But regardless of the accolades, De Bona acknowledges that the team’s offense has room for improvement.
“We know the awards don’t mean anything,” he says. “We have to go out there and do it. We can always score more, and we can work on our finishing. We can even help more defensively. There’re a lot of different things we can do to get better.”
The team’s defense, led by David Asbjornsson (ENG’17), the reigning Patriot League Defender of the Year, and Matt Gilbert (Questrom’17), the league Goalkeeper of the Year, performed admirably in 2015. In the final six regular season games, BU only once allowed more than one goal.
In terms of numbers, however, the Terriers’ defense ranked in the bottom half of the Patriot League in goals allowed per game (1.06). Gilbert says the players know they have to do better to advance to the playoffs, adding that they’ve already set some targets.
“One of the team’s goals we established early was to keep it under one goal a game,” he says. “We’re going to try to keep the goals against average low and ultimately, if we do that with our high-powered offense, we’ll have a good chance of winning the Patriot League.”
Gilbert is considered the team’s driving force, frequently shouting directions from the backfield. In addition to his leadership skills, he has a knack for making difficult saves look easy, extending and diving for balls with ease—a testament to his prowess as a basketball player. (He was a three-year letterman in basketball at Madison High School in New Jersey.)
“I definitely think basketball was one of the main reasons BU recruited me,” he says. “I can go up and grab balls, just like a rebound. It’s fun being an athletic basketball player and converting it to soccer. A guy on the basketball team told me he was a goalie in high school. It’s a two-way thing that helps a lot, especially for goalkeepers.”
Neil Roberts, marking his 32nd season as head coach, realizes that looking past tomorrow’s home opener, his Terriers have work to do if they hope to win the league title and advance to the NCAAs.
“We’ve got to tweak things and change things a bit,” Roberts says. “We’re obviously headed in the right direction, but we’re not where we want to be. We have to score more goals, we have to give up fewer goals, we have to manage better. With success comes management, and we have to adapt to what makes us better.”
The BU men’s soccer team takes on the University of Massachusetts tomorrow, Saturday, September 10, at 7 p.m., at Nickerson Field, 285 Babcock St. Admission is free for all BU students with a sports pass, $3 for faculty and staff, and $5 for the general public. The Patriot League Network will broadcast the game live.
Emmanuel Gomez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments & Discussion
Boston University moderates comments to facilitate an informed, substantive, civil conversation. Abusive, profane, self-promotional, misleading, incoherent or off-topic comments will be rejected. Moderators are staffed during regular business hours (EST) and can only accept comments written in English. Statistics or facts must include a citation or a link to the citation.