Men’s soccer secured home field advantage in the first round of the Atlantic-10 tournament.
Men’s Soccer Closes Regular Season With 1-0 Victory over Fordham
Men’s soccer secured home field advantage in the first round of the Atlantic-10 tournament after a 1-0 victory over Fordham University Saturday afternoon, their last match of the regular season.
Loyola entered play 7-2-4 and in fifth place in the A-10, sitting at 3-1-3 following a 0-0 tie at the University of Rhode Island Oct. 21. With their victory, they jumped to a third place finish in the A-10 regular season standings.
The Rams walked into Loyola Soccer Park just behind the Ramblers in sixth with an A-10 record of 3-2-2. Their overall record stood at 6-2-7 following a 2-2 draw against Princeton University Oct. 24.
Second-year midfielder Daniel D’Ippolito and graduate midfielder Liam Salmon helped Fordham set the tone early, forcing first-year Loyola goalkeeper Aidan Crawford to make two saves in quick succession in the third minute.
Loyola briefly broke through a staunch Fordham defensive effort in the 10th minute when a steal by graduate-midfielder Markus Maurer set up fourth-year forward Oscar Dueso for a shot. The ball failed to leave the ground before graduate Ram goalkeeper Carter Abbot stopped Dueso in his tracks with a slide tackle.
Fordham had a strong chance in the 15th minute when a cross from graduate defender Sigfus Arnason found graduate defender Timo Hummrich for a shot that Crawford blocked in time. Crawford recorded five saves on his way to his eighth win of the season. He finished the regular season 8-1-4 in his appearances.
In the 18th minute, Dueso beat two defenders and hit first-year forward Peter Janjic on the wing. Janjic booted a cross which was received by Mauer for another cross that was done away with by the Rams defense. The match was a defensive slugfest throughout — Loyola only managed to get off 8 shots all game while Fordham kicked 11.
A hard foul on graduate midfielder Marc Torellas just outside the box in the 33rd minute by Ram graduate defender Adrian Valentine set Torellas up for a free kick which struck the defensive wall Fordham’s players set up in front of the goal.
The Ramblers kept up the pressure when just two minutes later third-year defender Lukas Ender forced Abbot to make a diving save on a hard-kicked shot. Loyola would get one more opportunity before the half ended when Janjic used his head on a cross, but it sailed just right of the goal in the 41st minute.
Neither of the two teams managed another attempt and went into the halftime break tied at 0. Fordham took hold of the ball in the first five minutes and pushed the Ramblers backline. A shot by D’Ippolito in the 51st minute was too strong and sailed out of bounds shifting control back to Loyola.
Just under a minute later, third-year defender Julian Cisneros managed a shot which was grabbed by Abbot. In the 64th minute graduate Ram defender Luis Puchol was charged with a yellow card for excessively protesting foul calls.
The match was very physical throughout with both sides being unsatisfied with the officiating at different points. Loyola finished with 16 fouls while Fordham was charged with 17. Head coach Steve Bode said the choppiness of the game did become frustrating and affected the team’s composure.
“The reality is we did let it affect our concentration at times and we can’t let that happen,” he said. “We have to grow there, but I thought we did a good enough job to not get too high or too low throughout the game.”
In the 69th minute, third-year forward John Gates broke past the Rams’ backline and had just Abbot to beat, but he once again came and stopped Gates on a slide.
Salmon nearly put Fordham on top in the 75th minute when his shot got past Crawford, who managed to just barely tip it, but it struck the crossbar and bounced in front of the goal where the Ramblers managed to clear away the danger.
Mauer made the game’s decisive play in the 85th minute when he gave Loyola the lead after heading a cross from first-year midfielder Jack McFeely past Abbot into the back of the net. McFeely picked up an assist and Maurer recorded his sixth goal of the season — the most on the team.
After the game, Maurer said it was amazing to score the game-winning goal and help earn his team home field advantage in the A-10 tournament.
“I came to Loyola to win the A-10, so I want to win the next three games for sure and I think winning today gave us a huge advantage because we are hosting a playoff game now which is always a big advantage,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to playing with the team and hope we can keep going like that.”
Fordham only got one more attempt before the final whistle when in the 89th minute Salmon managed a final shot on goal which was straight to Crawford.
Bode said it was “massive” to play well, get a win and get momentum rolling going into the playoffs.
“I thought the game was a really, really even game overall, it was kind of like a defensive stalemate,” Bode said. “So it was just gonna be which team was gonna be able to come up with a big play down the stretch and fortunately it was today and we’re very proud of that.”
He added it means a lot for the guys to secure a top four spot and to play at least one more game at Loyola Soccer Park during the A-10 tournament.
“I think in this conference right now, the parity is so high that it could end up being there’s upsets and then maybe if you take care of business you are getting another game at home because maybe one of the top seeds get beat,” he said.
Saturday Nov. 4, the men’s soccer team gets their postseason journey underway as the sixth seeded Dayton University Flyers visit Loyola Soccer Park. First-kick is scheduled for 3 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.
Featured image by Holden Green | The Phoenix