The 2017 campaign was one Boston College men’s soccer might like to forget. In fact, the Eagles’ 6-10-1 record, which included a dismal 1-6-1 ACC mark, was head coach Ed Kelly’s worst season in three years. After finding their way to the NCAA tournament in 2016, a mid-season slump sabotaged the Eagles’ efforts to attain a .500 record.
It wasn’t a year without bright spots, though, as a breakout season from Simon Enstrom up front and a strong stretch run provided hope that, despite a rocky slate, the future should be brighter for the squad.
Best Moment: The Stretch Run
After failing to really get the season off the ground, BC finally started to improve its form with three weeks remaining in the season—beginning on Oct. 10 against Harvard. Enstrom recorded his first career hat trick, pacing the Eagles to a 3-1 victory. The group’s lone victory in conference play came next, as Callum Johnson’s overtime strike boosted BC to a win over Syracuse. Johnson wasn’t done though: To get past a better-on-paper UConn squad, the Eagles required further overtime heroics from the former New York Red Bulls’ academy member. Three-straight BC scoring plays, capped off by another overtime goal from Johnson, sealed a 3-2 comeback victory over the Huskies.
But perhaps the most impressive win of this stretch didn’t even garner three points: After dropping a result to No. 2 Wake Forest, the Eagles looked to rebound with an upset victory over No. 22 NC State. Soon enough, it was apparent that such an outcome wasn’t in the cards. Starting goalkeeper Antonio Chavez Borelli was shown a red card for handling the ball outside the penalty area, but backup Jack Bacon made his first appearance in a month in a half, successfully defended the indirect free kick, and fought alongside the BC defense to survive the rest of the game—including its two overtime periods—to secure a scoreless draw. It was the Eagles’ third shutout of the year, but its first since posting back-to-back clean sheets in the first two games of the year, and the only one that ended with a shrug.
Worst Moment: The Two Four-Game Losing Streaks
Four-game losing streaks are never good—having two of them in 36 days is a lot worse. The first disastrous run began on Sept. 1, when BC lost to New Hampshire, followed by defeats to Xavier, No. 6 Notre Dame, and No. 10 Clemson in succession. The toughest result for the Eagles to swallow was the overtime-loss to Xavier, with the 1-0 defeat to ranked Tigers team coming in at a close second.
The second rough stretch began on Sept. 22, just a week after the Clemson loss and only three days removed from the lone win BC secured over the course of nine games. No. 10 Louisville ran the Eagles off the pitch, but things only got more painful as BC dropped three one-goal losses to Rhode Island, Virginia Tech, and No. 11 Virginia to seal the second four-game streak.
The combination of a couple blowout losses with so many close results made September a nightmare month for the Eagles, making the final portion of the season that much more important.
Most Valuable Player: Simon Enstrom
Enstrom provided the spark BC craved for much of 2017. After an off-year in 2016—one in which he saw his goal-scoring production drop by 50 percent, Enstrom notched nine goals to become one of the top scorers in Eagles history. He currently sits tied for eighth on the all-time list with Jay Hutchins and David Sullivan. Additionally, his passing ability—his four assists were good for third best on the team—pushes him over the top as BC’s most dangerous attacking option. If he has a year as productive as his freshman and junior campaigns during his final year on the Heights, Kelly has quite an offensive building block to structure an ACC contender this coming fall.
Considering how successful Kelly has been during his time leading the Eagles (223-162-41), it’s unlikely that BC’s 2017 form was a look at the new normal for the program. Enstrom’s solid year, combined with Johnson’s continued development and returning assist leaders Younes Boudadi and Heidar Aegisson, should make for a potent offense. Question marks remain at the back: Captain Len Zeugner has missed most of the past two seasons with various injuries after making the All-ACC third team his freshman year, and a return to form from him could make a huge difference in 2018. He’ll be missing his partner at center-back—Tomas Gudmundsson is graduating—but regardless of who makes up the Eagles’ back line, it needs to be significantly better if BC is going to make waves in one of the toughest conferences in college soccer.
The Eagles surrendered 1.694 goals per game in 2017, a number good enough to earn them the 165th best defense in the nation. Sarcasm aside, that’s not good enough to get wins against the best of the best in ACC play. Chavez Borelli showed flashes of excellence in goal, but too often the entire BC defense was picked apart game after game. Major improvements are required if Kelly is to return his squad to its prior levels of success.
Featured Image by Katherine Mahoney / Heights Staff