by Pete Janny, Sports Editor
Fortunately for the players on the field, the conditions on Friday night at Gaelic Park were not as hot and humid as the night before when the women played the Battle of the Bronx. Most importantly for them, the men’s soccer team picked up a big 1-0 win in their season opener against Lehigh.
The decisive goal came in the 17th minute when the Le- high goalie mishandled a routine save off a shot from junior Dorian Bounab, leading to an own goal for the home team. The early lead took the pressure off Manhattan, who came out the gate slow while Lehigh established possession early on.
Manhattan looked like a to- tally different team in the last 15 minutes of the first half than they did in the first 30 minutes. Substitutes James Cotter and Matias Leaniz gave the Jaspers attack some new life with their clever passing and good movement off the ball. Once things started clicking, Manhattan had a few chances to extend their lead, including a shot on goal from Cotter and one that went just wide right from Leaniz.
“Matias has only been training for five days,” head coach Jorden Scott said of Leaniz’s re- cent arrival. “He hasn’t played a preseason game and he just cleared out of quarantine. He was fantastic when we brought him on and we did not want to take him off.”
Manhattan’s gritty efforts in the midfield was a constant throughout — even when the quality of their play stalled. Senior Thomas Hitchins held down the center of the midfield with his steady passing and ability to win close challenges. Later in the second half, senior Simon Busch switched from midfield to center back to serve as another barrier for the Mountain Hawks’ offense. Whether it was moving Busch back or calling on the fresh legs of Johan Feliz and Yasin Choukri, head coach Jorden Scott seemed to hit all the right buttons with his tactical moves.
“We’re in this mode of the next four weeks of figuring out who fits where,” Scott said. “We had some fabulous players on the bench but we just couldn’t get them in because of the tem- po and intensity. We wanted to stick with the leadership and maturity.”
The biggest scare for the Jaspers came in the 64th minute when an errant pass wound up at the feet of Lehigh’s Aus- ten Carranza whose breakaway attempt was denied by sophomore goalkeeper Danny DiMarco. It was the save of the game — and not one DiMarco will forget any time soon.
DiMarco was impressive in net. He finished with three saves and made all the right reads. There was no such thing as hesitation for DiMarco on his way to earning his third ca- reer win and second ever clean
sheet while still only in the nascent stages of his college career.
Manhattan outshot Lehigh 10-9, while their two corner kicks on the night was one less than the Mountain Hawks.
The victory over Lehigh, winners of the Patriot League in 2019, marked the third time in the last five seasons that Manhattan won its season opener. The other two times came against Navy in 2017 and 2018.
The next three games against Holy Cross, Temple and Columbia are on the road before the Jaspers return home to face the Fordham Rams on Sept. 14 for the Battle of the Bronx. Kick-off for that game is slated for 3 PM.