Jaspers Remain on Top Against Rams

by Pete Janny, Sports Editor

For four years and counting, the Manhattan men’s soccer team has reprised the same role in their favorite Bronx Tale. Beating their most hated rival Fordham three times in a row is a feeling unlike any other for Jorden Scott and his unproven team, even if it meant having to skip a year due to the pandemic.

Despite normal early-season growing pains, the 1-0 win over Fordham was a signature moment for a Manhattan team that was picked to finish ninth in the MAAC this season. But irrespective of what the pundits say, Manhattan has worked hard to earn their 2-2-1 start to the season against a formidable non-conference schedule designed to ready them for the MAAC campaign.

Scott, who prides himself on scheduling tough non-conference slates, was able to step back and appreciate how far his team has come after the final buzzer sounded. Not only because they beat their biggest rival once more over — although

that certainly helped the cause. The biggest positive is the Jaspers did more than do enough to hang in there — both physically and emotionally — for 90 minutes against a quality side.

Not everything went according to the script. Players on both sides exchanged words when the final horn sounded before the referees and coaches sent them each on their way back to the locker room. That’s the DNA of this Jaspers team, though, who refuse to bow down to any opponent and have found some good leadership from different players throughout the course of non-conference play.

Scott will take that display of heart from his team so long as it translates into good, fundamental soccer as it did against Fordham.

“We wanted to protect our home field,” Scott said. “We wanted to show that we’re the best team in the area in the Bronx.”

One player who has answered the call to help his team grow is Oswald Annang. Back for his fifth year, Annang stepped up in a big moment against Fordham when his goal in the 58th minute gave the Jaspers the lead for good and extended his scoring streak to two games.

At the moment it stopped the bleeding for a Manhattan team that was outplayed by the Rams in the first half; which included a penalty save from sophomore goalkeeper Danny DiMarco on Fordham’s Matt Sloan.

“We did well for about 20 minutes, and then they changed up tactically a little bit in terms of the strategy,” Scott said. “It caught us off guard and we didn’t react well. We needed Danny [DiMarco] in key moments.”

Alongside Annang, DiMarco proved to be pivotal in the win with four saves, which also included a big one in the second half that saw him deny a second-chance attempt in the box for the Rams. As has been a theme with DiMarco this season, the second-year keeper was in the right place at the right time against Fordham.

“I think Danny has really stepped up in the last couple of games, and he’s done what he’s supposed to do as a top goalkeeper,” Scott said of DiMarco. “It’s his spot to lose so to speak.”

Although Fordham outshot Manhattan 17-6, the Jaspers’ execution on the goal was the lasting memory from this year’s Battle of the Bronx. An entry pass into the middle of Fordham’s half of the field al- lowed Borian Dounab to do a one-time flick toward Brandon Joseph-Buadi who was pacing the left sideline. Joseph-Buadi promptly neutralized the defense with a combination of speed and dribbling before setting up Annang for a point-blank strike in the box that put Manhattan in control.

In conjunction with DiMarco, the Manhattan defense did their part against Fordham after struggling at times against Temple and Columbia. The Jaspers staved off seven corner kicks by the Rams as well as 10 shots from the opposition in the second half alone. The whistle blew for 28 fouls, including 12 on Manhattan.

As for formation and lineup construction, nothing is set in stone according to Scott, with every matchup being like a chess match in a sense. Against an experienced Fordham team, Scott made the preemptive decision to deploy a lineup with a similar mold as the opposition.

“We really wanted to go with a little bit more size and more experience,” Scott said.

Not every tactical adjustment was intuitive either, such as the move to use freshmen like center midfielder Ronan O’Brien and defender Omar Torres in outsized roles.

“I have to give these guys an opportunity like I did against Colombia to show how good they are,” Scott said about using his younger players.

The schedule now gives the Jaspers a chance to reset in all areas. Following the bout with Fordham, the Jaspers woke up the following morning with only one game in a 14-day span.

They next play LIU at home on Sept. 21 with kickoff slated for 3 p.m. The matchup with the Sharks is their final tune-up before the MAAC home opener versus Iona on Sept. 29.

“Now we have to go into the strategies within and see what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, review the analysis and then get back on the field,” Scott said.