Despite what the score might suggest, Tuesday afternoon’s matchup between Boston College men’s soccer and visiting Merrimack was anything but uneventful.
In a thrilling, back-and-forth affair where the two teams traded shots, neither could find the back of the net. Eventually, after the game dragged on for two and a half hours, it came to an end at a 0-0 deadlock—the Eagles’ second tie in as many games.
BC’s (5-2-2, 0-2-1 Atlantic Coast) freshman starters, as they have shown to be throughout the beginning of this season, were explosive from the start of the game until the dying minutes of the second overtime. The prominent playmakers included freshman midfielders Amos Shapiro-Thompson and Mike Suski, as well as forward Stefan Siguardarson. These players, along with their upperclassman teammates, spearheaded an offense that forced the Merrimack (3-3-2) defense to spread itself thin in an attempt to halt the near-constant Eagles attack.
Early in the contest, though, it was BC’s defense that was put to the test with some misplays in the opening minutes, leading to chances by the Warriors’ offense—including a close call following a Merrimack corner kick in the eighth minute. The Warriors’ Marc Torrellas set himself up for the kick, aiming for one of his teammates to tip the ball in, but his service was cleared to safety, thanks to consecutive headers from BC seniors Adam French and Joe Kellett.
The next scoring opportunity came just two minutes later when Merrimack’s Stefano Pesenti surged into BC territory, virtually uncontested by defenders. Consequently, the lack of coverage would have allowed Pesenti to score, had his shot not sailed over the net.
The pressure applied by Merrimack did not go unchallenged, as the Eagles quickly upped the ante on defense. Late in the 12th minute, Sigurdarson intercepted a pass between two Merrimack defenders, providing the chance for him to race around the Warriors’ back line and into the 18-yard box. His shot hit the outside of the net, but the play helped the Eagles regain their confidence and motivation for the rest of the half—as well as the rest of the game.
BC’s statistics from the first half helped the casual viewer understand which team prevailed in a scoreless game—the Eagles led the Warriors eight shots to five, as well as five shots on goal to Merrimack’s zero.
Both sides came out of the break revitalized—each faster and more determined than before, desperate to score a decisive go-ahead goal. It seemed as though that play had come in the 53rd minute for the visiting Warriors. The scoring chance began with a corner taken by Torrellas, a service that sent the ball flying into the chaos in front of the net before finding itself beyond the grasp of BC’s sophomore goalkeeper Christian Garner and into the back netting. The play was not as clean-cut as it originally appeared, though, as the goal was immediately waved off by the referee due to a handball that had tipped the ball into the BC goal. Neither team got quite as close to securing the win as Merrimack had in that unfortunate turn of events.
The rest of the half consisted of a multitude of blocked shots and close saves at both ends of the field. Then, when regulation came to a close, overtime and all of its corresponding chaos began. Late in the 95th minute, Merrimack unleashed four shots at the BC goal—three blocked and one safely tucked into the arms of Garner.
It was in the last three minutes of the second overtime period that the two teams truly let loose the full impact of their speed and tenacity—both teams were getting desperate, playing more physical, and running faster than before. And yet, the contest ended as it had begun, in a scoreless tie between the two squads.
Both teams’ starting lineups had been greatly adjusted as the game went on, with each team substituting players in relief and as an opportunity for a slightly different style of play to be introduced to the pitch. One key difference in the Eagles’ starting lineup against Merrimack was the absence of freshman Alejandro Zimmermann, who had been sent off the previous game following a high kick to the face of a Virginia Tech midfielder. While Zimmermann will return from his suspension in the next game, his presence as a skilled defender was noticeably absent in Tuesday’s match against Merrimack.
Although BC was unable to get a shot past Merrimack’s veteran goalkeeper, Lucas Rezende, the final statistics give a glimpse into the edge the Eagles had throughout. BC outshot Merrimack, 15-12, all while registering five fewer fouls and five more corner kicks than the Warriors. And, even though the Eagles weren’t able to improve their non-conference record, associate head coach Bob Thompson was still pleased with the outcome.
“There was a lot of maturity and a lot of discipline in just closing out the game and not giving up a goal and making sure that we got a tie,” Thompson said. “Sometimes a tie is a good result.
BC started the year 4-0, but since has won just one of its last five games. It has three more home matches in a row that feature a non-conference game, sandwiched by matchups against the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the country. The path doesn’t get any easier, and it’ll be up to the Eagles to find their way back into the win column.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor