Men’s Soccer: Late-Season Implosion

Terriers: Derailed.
Terriers: Derailed.

Article by Josh Mellits and Brian Roach

After posting a 9-2-3 record through its first 14 games, including a five-game unbeaten streak featuring wins over No. 1 teams, the men’s soccer squad was mired in a four-game losing streak, almost costing them a playoff spot. Although they won their final two games, let’s examine what happened to derail the Terriers, a team that once was ranked number two in a NCAA Northeast Regional poll. Statistics are through October 21.


After averaging 1.7 goals per game through the first 14 contests, the Terriers managed to find the back of the net only four times during their four-game losing streak.  The Terriers have been somewhat of a streaky offensive team all season – scoring two or three goals a game for several games before stumbling upon extended dry spells (the Terriers have been held without a goal twice this season).

The loss of senior forward Shaun Taylor has certainly not helped an offense that is struggling to score goals.  Taylor, who has been sidelined by a leg injury since early September, finished the 2008 campaign tied for second in the conference in total goals scored (9) and tallied 21 total points, which ranked third overall in the America East conference.  However, the loss of Taylor cannot fully explain the Terriers’ late-season offensive woes.  Junior forward/midfielder Aaron O’Neal has emerged as an offensive force, leading the Terriers in goals scored (10) and total points (23), and the Terriers had been playing good soccer (prior to this point) – beating the University of Connecticut handily and handing then-top-ranked St. John’s University a 1-0 loss.

The offensive opportunities have been there for the Terriers: even during its four-game losing streak, the team out-shot its opponents 55-39.  However, the Terriers must look to parlay their shots on goal into goals.  While the team also led their opponents in shots on goal during the slide, 23-21, opponents have converted 9-of-21 of their shots on goal into points, while the Terriers have converted only four times on 23 shots on goal.

The net has been a challenge for late-season Terriers
The net has been a challenge for late-season Terriers


Through the season’s first 14 contests, the Terrier defense and senior goalkeeper Hrafn Davidsson were holding opponents to a stifling 0.64 goals per game.  This impressive statistic included eight shutout performances and a 270-minute shutout streak that spanned 11 days.  However, things in the net got a little shaky.  In four games, the Terriers have allowed nine goals (a goals per game average of 2.25, raising the season average for this statistic to about 1 goal per game).  Although Davidsson’s 1.04 goal per game average and .742 save percentage are well below opponents’ 1.49 and .726 averages, respectively, the Terriers’ offensive struggles have made brilliant play in net a necessity.  And, let’s face it, in a four-game span, the Terriers and their net minder gave up as many goals (9) as they did in their prior 14 contests.


A prolonged slide can take its toll on both individual players’ psyche as well as general team morale. In each of the first four conference losses, a specific lapse contributed to BU’s unraveling:

Oct. 7: Hosting the University of New Hampshire, the Terriers took a lead into halftime. But the Wildcats scratched back with two second-half scores, including a header off a cross. With 20 seconds remaining, BU earned a corner kick, but after a scramble, Davidsson’s last-ditch kick toward the opponents’ far post fell short. Final score: UNH 2, BU 1.

Oct. 10: The Terriers worked the University of Hartford on the road to a 1-1 tie after an O’Neal goal. But just two minutes later, sophomore midfielder Ryan Shea earned a red card and was ejected from the contest. BU let up two more goals to the Hawks without the extra man and dropped the game, 3-1.

Oct. 16: Aired live on the Fox Soccer Channel, the Terriers came to Binghamton University and damaged their cause early. Just five minutes into the game, a BU defenseman tried to head the ball back to Davidsson, but it fell weakly and Bearcat freshman Jake Keegan gathered it before knocking into the net. The Terriers couldn’t come back and fell, 2-1.

Oct. 21: The Terriers celebrated Senior Night in their home finale against the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. Again, BU came out strong and got on the board first. But the visiting Retrievers responded merely 30 seconds later with the equalizer, and within five minutes, took the lead and the air out of the once-energetic home crowd. Another 2-1 defeat for the Terriers.

The final tally: In two of these games, the Terriers surrendered an early lead, either after the half, or after several minutes of play. The other two games were knotted at one before the opposing offenses tallied the game-winner.

As with any slump, the Terriers were caught in a rut and have been coming up short in places where they used to excel. The Terriers managed to salvage the season as they enter the America East tournament as the No. 6 seed and visit No. 3 Hartford Saturday, Nov. 7. Either way, for BU men’s soccer, 2009 will be remembered as the year that could have been.

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