By Maddie Mulkigian and Isaiah Rosario, Asst. Sports Editor & Staff Writer
The Manhattan College men’s soccer team advanced to the semi-finals after a successful win against Fairfield on Thursday.
Manhattan men’s soccer took the field against Fairfield in the quarter-finals of the 2022 MAAC Tournament on Nov. 6. The last time that these two teams met it was a defensive battle as Manhattan narrowly beat Fairfield with a score of 1-0.
In the 18th minute, Fairfield defender Cormac Pike slowly passed the ball back to Fairfield’s goalkeeper, James Anderson. Manhattan forward Gunnar Studenhofft noticed the slow roller to the goalkeeper and accelerated toward the ball, and tapped the ball in for Manhattan’s first goal of the game and leaving the Jaspers with a 1-0 lead.
Things got a little bit chippy in the 30th minute. Studenhofft had a breakaway when Pike stepped in for the ball and took out Studenhofft on the way. Studenhofft and Pike went face-to-face for a short period.
After flared tempers, Studenhoff stayed calm on a breakaway and passed the ball to the right to midfielder, Ronaldo Da Silva. Da Silva made a quick cut to the middle and took the shot into the bottom left corner to raise Manhattan’s lead to 2-0 in the 31st minute.
45 minutes in Manhattan leads Fairfield 2-0 at the half. The tone was set early, and after a slow second half, Manhattan was able to beat Fairfield with a score of 2-0. According to GoJaspers, Manhattan led in almost every single category. Manhattan had four more shots, one more shot on goal than Fairfield, and two more corners. Manhattan had one more save than Fairfield and one less foul. “In the first half, we put on a really good performance. I think it was probably the best half of the whole season,” Henry Hamilton from the Jaspers said. “Gunnar performed incredibly, got a goal and an assist, and can’t ask much more of your number nine in 45 minutes. Coming out of that first half, we were super confident. We knew going into the second half we needed to defend our lead. We are in the semi-finals and coming out of the game completely, I think we’re very confident.”
Following the Farfield game, the Jaspers experienced a devastating loss to the Iona Gaels in the MAAC Semifinal losing 1-0. Looking at the statistics of the game, Manhattan wins. Watching the game and the possession that Manhattan held throughout the game, Manhattan wins. However, the only thing that stood in the way of a Jaspers’ celebration was an Iona goal in the fourth minute of the game.
The last time Manhattan met Iona, the Jaspers suffered a 2-1 loss. Hamilton scored a penalty kick in the 11th minute to make it 1-0. The rest of the game was all Iona, as Iona scored 2 goals, one in the 33rd minute and one in the 60th minute.
This time around, Manhattan experienced a similar result, but with a different story. Manhattan dominated the game in all statistics as they led 11-3 in shots, 3-1 in shots on goal, and 6-1 in corners. In fact, the most action that goalkeeper Danny DiMarco received throughout the match was when he left his box to join the rest of his teammates in a corner to attempt to score. While Manhattan dominated the game in every aspect of the MAAC Semifinal, it was Iona’s only shot on goal that was the winning goal of the game.
“I’ve never been in a MAAC semi-final where I felt that we were clearly better. And for an opposing head coach to apologize to me at the end of the game for the manner in which they won the game speaks to who Manhattan College soccer is now,” Scott said. “There are never guarantees in sports, but we have to be up there competing for championships every year. That’s where we should be every year. We know that the additions we’ll make and we’ll be back up there next year. I have no doubt about that whatsoever.”
The statistics versus the result of the match prove what a cruel sport the game of soccer can be. Whether it was striker Gunnar Studenhofft smashing the crossbar in the 36-minute or the timekeeper allowing the clock to run an extra 30 seconds during an injury late in the second half, the uncontrollable aspects dominated the game almost as much as the Jaspers did.
In a key moment of the second half, all Jasper fans erupted with frustration and arguments when striker Gunnar Studenhofft had a one-versus-one goal-scoring opportunity with the goalkeeper and was taken out by the legs. The center referee’s whistle blew and Manhattan immediately began cheering, believing that Studenhofft earned the team a penalty kick, for the referee to instead call the foul on the tackled striker.
This backward call resulted in a high amount of frustration from all parties of Manhattan’s team. However, the Jaspers had to regain control of their game and continue to play their style despite the impact the referee was having on their goal-scoring opportunities.
“I think what we think you’ll find is that we have a real high-tempo style of play that people want to watch,” head coach Jorden Scott said. “Because of that high press, that high intensity there’s going to be little fouls here and there. I think what we struggled with earlier in the season was going on the road and dealing with referees who have never seen that intensity before.”
Fouls and calls not going the Jaspers’ way was something that the team has experienced all season. It is an aspect of the game that Scott makes sure he trains his boys to be prepared for.
“You’re not dealing with full-time professionals. And so it’s really difficult when things go against you to stay focused, but we expect perfection. And that’s just unrealistic,” Scott said. “I mean, the boys will tell you in practice, I’ll deliberately call out the wrong direction all the time. I’ll give the other team the ball just to really piss the team off, to see if I can get them to react, and then learn from the moment. But you have to do that because that’s the environment you walk into every single MAAC game.”
As frustrating as that call on Studenhofft and a majority of the referee’s other decisions were, the Jaspers did not look to blame the calls on why they didn’t get the result they wanted.
“We created the chances, but we just weren’t good enough to put them away. Obviously, the ref could have helped us a bit more with his decisions. But there’s nothing you can do now. We’ve never had a referee who’s been perfect,” midfielder Jamie Cotter said. “We just need to be better and put the goals away because everywhere else, we were better than them.”
“I think certainly the future is bright,” junior defender Ensa Sanneh said. “It’s tough to move on from yesterday, but we have to because we have to get better, we have to get stronger, we have to fix all the things that we have to work on.”
As sad as it is for this squad to return to Manhattan’s campus without a MAAC Championship trophy, it’s devastating to the players, coaches, and fans. However, this season was the start of a bright future for the Jaspers. Thursday’s loss to Iona will only add fuel to the fire for the team to compete in the coming years.