Courtesy of NJIT Athletics
There was a lot to like for NJIT in its come-from-behind 2-1 men’s soccer victory at Rider Wednesday afternoon on Ben Cohen Field.
Rider (5-2) came in with a three-game winning streak, the last two by shutout. Indeed, the Broncs hadn’t conceded a goal since the 68th minute of their 2-1 win over Bryant on September 15. With a double overtime shutout against LIU Brooklyn and a regulation shutout of St. Bonaventure, they came into Wednesday’s home game vs. NJIT with a shutout stretch three seconds shy of 219 consecutive minutes on defense.
Further, Rider had not allowed more than one goal in any of its first six games, surrendering just four goals combined along the way.
NJIT (3-5-1), which hadn’t won outside of Newark in five previous tries (four losses and a tie) this season, headed to the Trenton area looking to get back on track after dropping a pair of 2-1 decisions last weekend at the ProRehab Aces Soccer Classic hosted by Evansville.
The Highlanders had lost to host Evansville on Friday night and then Green Bay on Sunday afternoon. The two 2-1 defeats were the third and fourth by that exact score this season for NJIT, which has lost by a razor-thin one-goal margin in all five of its 2013 defeats.
Against that background, NJIT’s challenge of facing a hot 5-1 team on the road got steeper when Rider freshman Christian Flath, who leads the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in scoring, bagged his team-leading fourth goal, assisted by fellow freshman Adrien Huss.in the 10th minute.
Rider extended its shutout string into the 41st minute Wednesday afternoon, but Highlander freshman Stephen McGeever snapped the streak in an instant with his first college goal, assisted by Joshua Mercer, on the equalizer at 40:07.
McGeever added his first college assist on what proved to be the game-winner at 52:08, as sophomore Jason Gonzalez found the back of the net for the first time this year, knocking in a rebound of McGeever’s previous shot to cap a three-shot flurry.
With NJIT outshooting the home team, with a team season-high 17, to six for Rider, including 10-1 in the second half, Highlanders goalkeeper, David Tuchinsky, was not especially busy, needing just two saves to earn credit for his second college win. His Rider counterpart, David Pastuna, the current MAAC Rookie of the Week, finished with eight saves, seven of which came in the second half.
The shots on goal were 10-3 in favor of NJIT, 9-0 in the second half, and the corner kicks were 6-1 for the visitors.
Flath’s goal for Rider came from the top of the box after he received a lob pass from Hess and finished the play at 9:23.
Down 1-0 late in the first half, NJIT pulled even in the 41st minute when Mercer, returning after an absence of six games, found McGeever, who converted on the point-blank chance at 40:07.
The game-winning goal came just past seven minutes into the second half (52:08), capping a flurry of three rapid-fire shots, the first two of which were saved by Rider’s Pastuna. Jason Chippy took the first shot in the spurt and the rebound came to McGeever, who was thwarted ahead of Gonzalez ringing the bell on NJIT’s try in the sequence.
Once the Highlanders took the lead, they didn’t let up, taking six of the game’s last seven shots. And the six NJIT shots were threatening, forcing Rider’s Pastuna to save five. The only shot for the Broncs in the nearly 38 minutes after they fell behind was off-target and high attempted by James Greco in the 89th minute.
The win for NJIT was its first of the season away from home. The Highlanders are 1-4-1 in away games and 0-1 in a neutral site game (last Sunday vs. Green Bay in Evansville). Two of the losses came against teams ranked in the national Top 25 (2-1 in the opener at St. John’s, ranked #19 then and subsequently a Top 10 team; 1-0 at FDU, ranked #22 at the time)