When a defender has the ball in front of his own net, the thing at the front of his mind is usually clearing the ball from his zone. For Boston College men’s soccer freshman Diego Ochoa, however, he seems to think not only about clearing the ball, but taking it to goal.
In the eighth minute of BC’s contest with Hartford on Monday, Ochoa sent an aerial pass to teammate Michael Suski, giving him a clear lane to the net. Suski fired the ball past Hartford’s goalie, and the crowd erupted in cheers as the Eagles went up 1–0, scoring their first and only goal of the game. But BC’s defense held, and one goal was all it needed.
Ochoa is one of 12 freshmen on the Eagles’ roster and one of three who started Monday’s game.
“The freshmen group is amazing,” BC head coach Bob Thompson said. “I’m so, so impressed with their maturity for such a young group. There’s a lot of freshmen giving a lot of minutes, you know. And I just think that they’ve done amazing right off the bat. Very mature performances for young guys. They’ve done great.”
In their first game back after a week’s rest, the Eagles (2–1) returned to Newton to face off against Hartford (0-3-1) after defeating Boston University 2–1 last week.
Halfway through the first half, the Eagles started to tire, and the Hawks took advantage of their slower-moving defense. BC struggled to keep the ball out of its defensive zone, as Hartford forwards pressured defenders Ochoa and Victor Souza, forcing them to rely on goalie Christian Garner to clear the ball.
The Eagles broke the pattern in the 40th minute of the game, however, as midfielder Amos Shapiro-Thompson came stampeding down the left side of the field, flying past two Hartford defenders and sending a cross-net pass to Suski, whose shot went just high. Suski and Shapiro-Thomspon kept the pressure on the Hawks’ defense for the rest of the half, just missing the net on multiple shots.
“I thought we were more organized than our first couple games,” Thompson said. “I think that was our biggest takeaway.”
The second half was a battle of possession, as neither team comfortably gained control of the ball—that is until Shapiro-Thomspon entered the game again with fresh legs. A missed penalty shot by Kristofer Konradsson led to multiple scoring chances for the Eagles, who peppered Hartford goalkeeper Rotem Fadida with shots. Konradsson finished the game with five shots, a team high.
A key piece of the Eagles’ offense was the dynamic between Adama Kaba, Ian Buehler, and Suski, who all worked exceptionally well together at the beginning of the second half. Kaba ran all over the field, never giving the Hartford defenders a second to rest, while Buehler looked for ways to set Suski up for a shot on goal.
The Eagles outmatched the Hawks in scoring attempts 18 to six, and in shots on goal, seven to two. Arguably even more impressive, the Eagles held Hartford to only one shot in the second half, a testament to their tenacious defense. Thompson heavily relied on his staple defensive players, as he kept Buehler and Souza in for the whole 90 minutes and Ochoa for 85 minutes.
“I thought as a group, defensively, we were more organized, and I thought the communication from the players was incredible,” Thompson said.
In the final minutes of the game, Suski came flying down the left side of the field, looking to notch his second tally of the game and third of the season. He sent a crisp shot with his left foot that went just shy of the net, narrowly missing a chance to extend BC’s lead. Although the Eagles’ lead stuck at just one, their scoring chances allowed them to kill time, eliminating any chances of a Hartford comeback.
“[We are focused on] just being prepared to match the intensity of a first ACC game, because the energy level in those games goes up,” Thompson said. “I think the physicality goes up, so I think just being prepared to prepare for the intensity of that game, I think is the biggest thing.”
Featured Image by Aditya Rao / Heights Staff