by PETE JANNY, Asst. Sports Editor
The Manhattan College men’s soccer team made the trip to Rose Hill last Tuesday for their annual meeting with the Fordham Rams. After losing their last five games, the Jaspers wanted nothing more than to finish off their non-conference slate of games on a winning note.
For the second year in a row, the Jaspers turned in an impressive performance against their biggest rivals. With their backs against the wall, Manhattan overcame a one-goal deficit to escape Rose Hill with a 2-1 win. The game-winner came in the 93rd minute when Berti Fourrier connected with Noah Amissah on a long-distance pass that gave Amissah enough time to bury a ball into the back of the net.
The opening 20 minutes of play was a slog for both teams with each side managing only one shot. Based on this early sample, it looked as if both sides were setting themselves up for a fierce defensive battle that would come down to the wire. For a Manhattan team that had mustered only one goal through the opening five games, the last thing they needed was a sluggish start from the offense.
On the flip side, the Manhattan defense was battling hard to keep the team in it. This included making a tremendous recovery on a big defensive mistake that almost put the Rams on the board first.
In the 23rd minute, Simon Busch tried passing back to goalkeeper Marcellin Gohier, but the pass was intercepted by a Fordham player whose touch sent the ball towards the goal. In improbable fashion, Manhattan senior Tristan Doran caught up to the ball to clear it away just before it crossed the line. The messy sequence was easily Fordham’s best chance up to that point.
Fordham’s inability to capitalize on that Manhattan mistake was soon forgotten because two minutes later the Rams broke through. In the 25th minute, the Rams caught the Manhattan defense sleeping when Joergen Oland retrieved a loose ball on the left side of the box before placing a ball top shelf past Gohier to give his team a 1-0 lead.
Now down, the Jaspers refused to let adversity throw them off their game.
In the 27th minute, Manhattan almost retaliated thanks to the aggressive play of junior Brandon Joseph-Baudi. While pressuring a Fordham defender down the right sideline, Joseph-Baudi emphatically bodied the player to the ground before gaining possession of the ball and firing a cross into the box. The ball landed at the feet of senior Noah Amissah, whose shot from the top of the box was blocked by a Fordham defender to quash the attack. Despite coming up empty, this exciting sequence was a harbinger for more positive things to come for the Jaspers.
As the first half wore on, it was clear that the momentum was slowly starting to shift Manhattan’s way.
With a minute and a half left, Joseph Koroma made his presence felt by curling a beautiful cross into the box from the right sideline that unfortunately no Manhattan player was able to take advantage of. For a talented kid like Koroma who’s just scratching the surface of the player he can one day be, it’s those types of plays that will help take Manhattan’s offense to the next level.
At the half, the Jaspers held a marginal 4-2 advantage in shots. Although Manhattan wasn’t playing their best soccer, Fordham’s 1-0 lead at the half was misleading as the Rams did close to nothing besides Oland’s goal.
The Rams tried shaking off the rust right out of the break when Samir Fathazada beat a few Manhattan defenders to force his way into the left side box, but his ensuing pass into the middle did not find any teammates. That promising sequence gave way to another Fordham cold stretch that would come back to bite them.
In 64th minute, Manhattan tied things up off a goal from Fourrier. The imposing striker was at the right place at the right time to finish off a rebound opportunity in the box following a shot by senior Felipe Clavijo.
Following the goal, the Jaspers’ offensive remained relentless over the next 15 minutes of play. The team’s best chance during this surge came in the 71st minute when a header by Amissah went high of the net to prolong the search for the go-ahead goal.
As the game entered the stretch run, the Rams’ offense rose from the dead thanks in large part to the play of Fathazada. With 12 minutes left, Fathazada again flashed his elite offensive skills by creating enough space for himself down the left side to send in a dangerous cross. Nothing was made of it, however, as there was no Fordham player on the receiving end.
The resurgence of Fordham’s offense meant an increase in activity for Gohier.
With six minutes left, Fordham’s Jacob Bohm gave Gohier and his troops a scare when he ripped a shot from outside the box that went just wide of the left post. Then, with little over a minute left, sophomore Kristian Shkreli took matters into his own hands by dribbling several yards down the middle of the field before blasting a hard shot on net that was blocked by Gohier. Regulation came to a close with a last-ditch effort by junior Chris Pensuwan when he delivered a cross into the box from the right side with 10 seconds left. Unfortunately for the Rams, the cross was a bit too strong and instead the buzzer sounded with both teams still tied at one.
Overtime seemed to end before it even started when just three minutes into the period, Fourrier fed Amissah in the box to set up the game-ending goal. You couldn’t have wrote it up any better for Manhattan, with Amissah scoring in his first appearance of the season coming off an injury. Moreover, it’s important to remember the team wouldn’t have even been in a position to win in the first place if not for the play of Fourrier. After netting his first goal of the season earlier in the game, Fourrier’s pinpoint pass to Amissah was what made the game-ending goal possible.
The brilliant play of Fourrier and Amissah overshadowed the excellent game Gohier had in net. When it was all said and done, Gohier finished with two saves. The veteran goalkeeper’s astute instincts at the end of regulation was what forced overtime.
Manhattan out-shot Fordham 15-7 en route to victory. In addition, the win marked the second year in a row that Manhattan has beaten Fordham coming off last year’s 1-0 triumph at Gaelic Park. Before last year’s win, Manhattan had gone 12 straight games against Fordham without a victory.
Head coach Jorden Scott couldn’t have been more proud of the way his team responded after losing their first five games of the season.
“This result has been coming for weeks as we have progressed and improved in every game,” Scott said during a postgame interview with Go Jaspers. “We have battled the toughest schedule in history and have leaned on our unity and belief to get us to where we are now. It’s MAAC season now and we feel we are as healthy and prepared as we have been all year.”
It is indeed MAAC season as the Jaspers will begin conference play at Gaelic Park this Wednesday, October 2nd at 7 PM against Monmouth. The team will then prepare for another home game against Quinnipiac on Saturday, October 5th at 2 PM.