When Quinn English sped around the Boston College defense in the 107th minute of the Eagles’ clash with Brown, the freshman forward had the goal and a Brown victory at his mercy. One-on-one with goalkeeper Alex Kapp, he should have scored. But Kapp came out to pressure the player and the ball. As the junior crashed into English at the right of penalty spot, the junior and his neon green jersey stuffed the ball and kept the game tied at 1-1.
This was just one of the many margins that decided the match between BC and Brown, as two minutes later, Isaac Normesinu side-footed a volley over the bar, even though he was just four yards away from the goal’s mouth.
Instead of mistakes keeping the Eagles from a non-conference triumph, it was missed opportunities that restricted them to a 1-1 draw against the Bears.
“It feels like a loss,” said associate head coach John Murphy. “There’s not too much you can say right now, because it can kind of be condescending to try and cheer them up after the game … you have to separate the result from the performance sometimes.”
BC thought it would be able to attack the Bears after playing each of its ACC matches after the loss to Clemson in a 4-4-1-1. Two banks of four suit the Eagles better, because it is easier for the players to understand. In addition, the system accounts for two wide midfielders that can defensively support the full backs, and a double screen of center midfielders tasked with protecting the back four. In the diamond, which the team reverted to on Tuesday, the system becomes more complex.
“We had some early success with the diamond, and we wanted to go back to a more defensive mindset for the games after we played Louisville,” Murphy said. “We have the defensive shape, which is good, but then it doesn’t translate to getting enough numbers forward into attack.”
In a 3-0 victory over Fordham last month, the team’s offense shows signs that it was starting to click and play the direct, yet attractive style of soccer it is capable of playing. But the coaching staff traded that momentum in order to be secure at the back. The move back to the diamond was supposed to give Normesinu more support up front, as Nick Butler, Phil Sandgren, and Zeiko Lewis were put in rotation with the sophomore.
Lewis played the best out of the three. His work in midfield was tireless on defense and when the team had the ball, as the Bermudan attacker dropped back to receive passes on several occasions. The sophomore’s lovely skill nearly led to BC’s opener on 37 minutes when he stuck a set piece from 45 yards onto the head of Dylan Pritchard, whose effort was parried away by Mitch Kupstas.
The Eagles don’t usually generate chances from set plays. This is a passing team with a talented group of creative players, but nothing gelled. Part of that was the tall grass at the Babson field where the match was played, because the Newton Campus soccer field’s turf is being replaced. That is not an excuse, though, and the coaching staff would be the first to say so.
“I think we were bogged down in the midfield a little bit, and I really think that’s usually been a strength of ours,” Murphy said. “We pass the ball, usually, very well.”
Without movement off the ball, nothing happened in the attack, and it gave the Bears room to take advantage. In the 81st minute, the Bears finally took advantage when Quinn’s headed flick at the top of the box split BC’s back line. Louis Zingas read the play and punished the Eagles by scoring.
Ed Kelly’s team responded quickly when Cole DeNormandie leveled the match just 41 seconds later. Pritchard rarely attacks from his right full back position, but he raided the flank and drove the ball on the ground to the senior midfielder, who was unmarked at the top of the six.
In the overtime period, chances were few and far between. It was up to Kapp to defend Brown’s corner kicks, as the Bears loaded the six-yard box on set plays or crashed the box from its edges. Kapp has been excellent in the air, though, and he was able to deal the lone corner Brown had by laying out to keep it away.
“Alex has been very good for us and I’m disappointed for conceding the goal, because as of late, we haven’t been allowing a lot,” Murphy said. “He made a couple of important saves, and you could be looking at a loss instead of a tie.”
Kapp is listed as a 6-foot, 182-pound goalkeeper, which is a bit on the small side, when there are stronger and taller keepers on the team.
“You have to work on your weaknesses,” Kapp said. “I’m not that 6-2 goalkeeper. I just have to work on my vertical and all that kind of stuff. That’s why I have to work on my feet. I have to be better with my feet. I have to set myself aside from the other goalkeepers that are just huge.”
The junior is also responsible for organizing a back four that has been strong this season. In the opening games, BC’s coaching staff played with a higher line, and central defender Atobra Ampadu is eager to squeeze the match to suppress the opponents’ moves forward.
“We have to be communicating out of the back a little more to our midfielders, so that our midfielders are in tact with what we’re doing,” Kapp said. “I think we just need to be on the same page as our midfielders.”
BC’s problems are not centered on the back four, though, and Kapp has been strong in backing up the rearguard when having to serve as its last line of defense. Issues with the team hinge on whether the skillful front three and four players can finish the chances they create. By squandering opportunities, BC portrays itself as a team worse than it really is.
“We let ourselves down a little bit today,” Murphy said. “I think we can perform a little bit better than that.”
To qualify for the ACC Tournament, the Eagles will have to play stronger and finish, because as of now, they would not make the postseason.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor