Men’s Soccer: BU flat at Lafayette, handed first Patriot League loss

By Sam Robb O’Hagan

The image was of senior defender Griffin Roach throwing his hands above his head and of graduate student midfielder Colin Innes tugging at his shorts, screaming up at the sky.

And it was of Boston University men’s soccer (7-3-3, 4-1-1 PL)—2-0 losers on Saturday at Lafayette (7-4-3, 4-1-1 PL) in their first Patriot League loss of the season—a team that looked like they just wanted to go home.

After conceding two goals over five unbeaten games to start Patriot League play, BU conceded twice in the first 40 minutes against the Leopards. The result leaves the top of the conference in a three-way tie; with BU, Lafayette, and Loyola-Maryland joint on 13 points. 

Including non-conference play, it was the Terriers’ first loss in eight games.

“Sports are always humbling,” BU Head Coach Kevin Nylen said. “Anytime you play the game, it can be humbling, and today, maybe it’s a little more humbling because it’s our first loss in conference.”

BU conceded two set-piece goals in five minutes near the end of the first half, inexplicably allowing a second-chance header from a long throw-in before leaving senior forward Hale Lombard—the Patriot League’s leading scorer—open for a free header from a wide free kick.

Both were defensive mishaps from one of the conference’s most experienced defenses, a unit whose 0.92 goals allowed per game coming in was second-lowest in the Patriot League.

“We didn’t defend the second ball on the throw and we didn’t defend the runners on the free kick,” Nylen said. “Very, very simple.”

Four minutes into the second half, senior goalkeeper Francesco Montali whiffed an attempt to punch a wide free kick clear, exposing his goal before senior forward Eitan Rosen cleared a shot off the line.

Nylen said the two goals were not part of a larger deficiency in defending set pieces within his squad. He did not address Rosen’s clearance.

“There’s not much aside from [the two goals] when it comes to set pieces,” Nylen said. “We didn’t defend those two and now you get paid.”

Lafayette took nine shots throughout the game, putting six of them on goal, but none truly challenged Montali beyond the Leopards’ three best chances.

In the second half, BU did not assume the look of the Patriot League’s second-highest scoring in need of two goals, but rather that of an attack lost for ideas. The Terriers took six shots in the second period, but all were taken from outside of the box and placed harmlessly wide. 

BU put one shot on goal throughout the 90 minutes: an errant cross from Innes in the 77th minute.

“You can control parts of the game in possession, you can not, you can send balls in that go out of bounds, you can take shots that aren’t on target,” Nylen said. “That’s part of the game.”

The Terriers’ offense was disconnected throughout. When they tried to play out from the back, they failed to progress the ball. When their midfielders found the ball in the center of the field, they couldn’t retain possession against a suffocating Lafayette defense.

The result was a frustrating reel of long balls—about the only way BU managed to move possession into the attacking third.

“[Lafayette] did a good job early on of being direct and putting pressure on us,” Nylen said. “They can limit how you play by how they play.”

But, like with his defense, Nylen insisted his offense’s struggles on Saturday are not part of a larger, developing problem.

“No need to worry about it, it’s our first loss in [eight] games,” Nylen said. “That’s part of soccer.”

Rain fell throughout the entire 90 minutes, saturating Lafayette’s grass field with water. BU plays at Nickerson Field, an artificial turf, and has not played a home conference game in the rain yet this season.

“Is it more comfortable for [Lafayette], probably, it’s our first time on grass,” Nylen said. “But I don’t think it’s the reason we lost the game.”

Innes has previously said he knows Nickerson Field “like the back of his hand,” and Rosen has said that playing at home “[is] something we really value.”

The Terriers are undefeated (5-0-1) at home this season, but are 2-2-2 on the road.

BU will next take on Northeastern in a non-conference matchup at home on Tuesday, looking to rebound from a loss in which the friendliest sight of the day was the bus back to Boston.

BU’s next Patriot League game is on the road next Saturday at 1 p.m. against Bucknell.

“We’re not walking away saying that we were poor,” Nylen said. “We’re walking away saying ‘okay, we got to prepare for what’s ahead.’”