by Pete Janny & Victor Franco, Sports Editor & Staff Writer
The Manhattan College men’s soccer team finally returned to the pitch this spring for the first since time since 2019. The program, coming off an abbreviated spring sea- son with a record of 2-4, has surely seen better days than they have in recent weeks after failing to qualify for the MAAC Playoffs. The goal for the Fall is to establish themselves back near the top of the MAAC standings, while proving that what happened this spring was merely a fluke.
Beyond just the results, the program’s experience this fall was tough overall. Between COVID-19 shutdowns and schedule changes, the team was unable to develop the continuity needed for a roster packed with new players.
Head coach Jorden Scott can recall the early problems that led to the season getting away for the Jaspers. It all start- ed in early February when the Jaspers entered their first team quarantine.
“Every time we got started we stopped,” Scott told The Quadrangle. “Every time we got momentum we had to stop.. we had two players spend 31 out of 52 days in quarantine.”
A second quarantine later, and the Jaspers found themselves with no other option than to travel to Monmouth for the season opener on March 18 without being properly conditioned. Adding to their bind was the absence of Scott, who had to serve a one-game suspension in place of two players who were sent off in the quarterfinals loss to Marist in 2019, but were no longer with the program this time around. Additionally, team captain Simon Busch took a leave of absence from the team with the full support of Scott and his coaching staff.
The result was a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the Hawks, who finished sixth place in the standings.
“If you have the minimum number of players required to play and you’ve had one day of training, you must play the game,” Scott said. “We only got to train on that Wednesday, and we were forced to go to Monmouth.”
Those unfortunate circumstances that threw the Jaspers into the fire against Monmouth weren’t an anomaly though. Due to the disparity in protocols between the individual schools, it was almost impossible for the MAAC to create a level playing field. On top of that, the MAAC was forced to rely on proper data reporting at a school’s own discretion, creating even more grey areas for how a specific team can deal with their own COVID-19 problems. At Manhattan, one positive COVID-19 test would automatically lead to a 10-day team quarantine, even if no one else tested positive before isolating.
“I get ver y fr ustrated with things that I can’t control,” Scott said. “This is an opportunity to reflect, evaluate, and then step into the fall with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder.”
But for a new team with limited practice opportunities, Manhattan worked hard to get back on track when they beat an experienced Iona team 1-0 at Gaelic Park on March 25. It was sweet revenge for the Jaspers after losing to the Gaels 2-1 in double overtime the last time they met in New Rochelle in 2019.
“I thought Iona was probably a little bit better and more experienced than us but we fought hard and got the win,” Scott said.
Looking to keep the momen- tum going, Manhattan couldn’t quite yet escape the domino ef- fect COVID-19 was having. The team’s home game vs. Rider on March 28 ended up being cancelled due to virus problems within the Broncs program and was never made up much to Rider’s convenience. Besides having to finish in the top seven, the minimum requirement for qualifying for the playoffs was playing three home games. Rider took advantage of that loophole by only playing three games in the regular season, all of which came at home. Their 2-0-1 record was good enough for the two seeds in the MAAC playoffs, and it was anomalies like that which eventually came back to bite the Jaspers.
The Jaspers’ third game was against the Niagara Pur- ple Eagles on April 1 in Buffa- lo. Niagara, who finished their season 4-2, had four home games this season compared to the Jaspers’ two. As if things couldn’t get worse for Manhattan, their 2-0 loss to Niagara came amidst a snowstorm in the Buffalo area on the first day of April.
“They had no lockers for us because of COVID,” Scott said about the trip to Niagara. “We stood in the middle of the field during a snowstorm for 15 minutes while they went inside to a warm locker room.”
Their best performance of the season came at home against Canisius on April 3 when they beat the Golden Griffs 4-2 on Senior Day. Senior Brandon Joseph-Baudi stole the show with two goals in helping the Jaspers get their record back to .500 at 2-2.
The Jaspers’ season took a turn for the worse over the last two games of the season on the road against Fairfield and Quinnipiac. Having to play their final four games in just eight days, Manhattan had very little left in the tank and lost both games 2-0. Even despite that, the Jaspers still almost qualified for the MAAC Playoffs, if not for their goal differential of minus eight being one goal worse than it needed to be.
Scott knows his program controlled all they could amidst a weird sequence of events, but ended up falling short. His focus is now on the fall season and getting his players ready for the challenge of the new season in the quest for an elusive MAAC Championship.
“What we do this summer in terms of preparation and in terms of what they boys do in reflecting is something we have to get done,” Scott said. “There can’t be any excuses this fall and my message to the team is prove these were uncontrollable factors this Fall.”
In addition to the incoming class of new players, Joseph-Baudi and Oswald Annang are both planning to return for their fifth season in light of all NCAA student-athletes being given an extra year of eligibility. Scott is also looking forward to the return of Busch and to a full recovery from injury for junior midfielder Jamie Cotter.
“You take away the experi- ence of guys like Simon Busch, Jamie Cotter and Desmond Cole and suddenly that’s half our senior group,” Scott said about losing key pieces. “We welcome Jamie back who started training this week and we welcome Simon back.”
Similar to the 2019 season, Scott is also working on putting together a competitive non-conference schedule featuring schools from larger conferences.
“I want to put games in front of our guys that are gonna be an example of what it’s going to feel like when you go to Quinnipiac, when you play Fairfield.”