Running up against a pair of talented teams, including NJAC rivals Rutgers-Newark in a 1-0 defeat and FDU-Florham for a 1-1 draw, the men’s soccer team played well defensively but couldn’t pull out a win in this season’s opening games at Lions Stadium.
The Lions (3-4-1) opened NJAC play against a streaking Rutgers-Newark squad — which had won six games in a row coming into the match — but a Scarlet Raiders goal in the 18th minute proved to be the difference.
“Rutgers-Newark was definitely a tough team to break down,” sophomore midfielder Nick Costelloe said. “They are very athletic and have a lot of pace and goal-scoring talent up front. They created a lot of chances and were able to be threatening on multiple occasions.”
A Scarlet Raiders offense, which is scoring 2.6 goals per game, was mostly held in check, with junior goalkeeper Maciej Libucha making nine saves to keep it a one-goal game until the end, and the Lions looked more dangerous in the second half.
“After watching the video clip of the game, I definitely think that we can hold our own against teams of this caliber,” Costelloe said. “In the second half we were able to run at their back line and keep the ball a bit more. What makes Rutgers-Newark a dangerous team to play against is that can score, but they also have the defensive discipline to close out a game.”
The result extended the Lions’ winless streak to four games, a stretch of 400 minutes in which they have only found the back of the net once.
“We certainly have had a dig in goal-scoring as of late,” Costelloe said. “Now that we are playing NJAC opponents, scoring will not get any easier. These games are tough, and without a go-to goal scorer, we will need to play even better as a team in the final third. I believe we do have the talent to score goals as we have shown earlier in the season, and once we find a rhythm going forward, I think the goals will come.”
The Lions did get on the board in their tie with FDU-Florham. Pressure from freshman forward Michael Kassak paid off just seconds after half-time, as Kassak forced a turnover deep in the Devils’ end and tucked the ball to the far post on a breakaway.
It would be a short-lived lead, though, as FDU-Florham struck back 62 seconds later. A Devils midfielder carved a through ball over the top of the Lions defense, and Devils forward AJ Carnevale got on the end of it to score the only other goal in a game that went to extra time with no winner.
The Lions have more than enough opportunity to get back into a scoring rhythm, though, with more meaningful NJAC games next up on the schedule — at home against Richard Stockton College on Wednesday, Sept. 24, and on the road at Kean University on Saturday, Sept. 27.
“Like I said, I think that we will rebound from this loss and hit our stride in NJAC play,” Costelloe said. “It is tough to open NJAC play against one of the best teams in the conference. Now we are more experienced, and we can work to get ready for Stockton on Wednesday.”