One minute into Boston College men’s soccer game on Sunday afternoon, an end-to-end soaring punt from Loyola Marymount University senior goalkeeper Paul Blanchette took a high bounce at the top of BC’s 18-yard box. This allowed Grant Sampson of LMU to knock a lofty shot over BC goalkeeper Cedric Saladin’s head to put the first point on the board. The Eagles fought back for another 89 minutes, but the early goal proved to be enough for the Lions of Loyola Marymount to knock BC off its three-game winning streak and hand the Eagles their first loss of the 2015 season in a 1-0 game.
LMU picked up momentum from the early goal, while BC came out flat and played passively. The Eagles spent the majority of the first 45 minutes of the game simply reacting to the Lions. LMU succeeded in possessing the ball in the Eagles defensive third of the field for most of the first half. To their credit, BC’s centerbacks handled the pressure well and contained the Lions mostly to the sidelines, taking some of the pressure off Saladin. When BC did gain possession, the Lions were quick to close gaps in their defense. LMU’s poaching efforts in passing lanes paid off and the Lions were able to create turnovers deep in BC’s defensive zone, which resulted in some close calls for Saladin.
Saladin jumped from redshirt freshman to starting goalkeeper in just one year, filling the role left behind by injured senior goalkeeper Alex Kapp. A player swap in that position alone would be enough to affect the team, but the inexperience on this 2015 Eagles team extends beyond just the goal. Five of Boston College’s starting 11 are freshmen and another three are sophomores.
“Just too many freshmen playing, that’s what it is,” said head coach Ed Kelly following the loss. The youth on the field and in the goal is noticeable, yet the Eagles still played a close game back and forth and held off the Loyola Marymount offensive pressure for most of the game.
Despite the constant offensive drives by both LMU and BC, a common theme among the two teams was the inability to create good scoring opportunities at prime angles. Both teams tried to run down balls in the corners and get crosses off to the far post, but their efforts were unrewarding and unsuccessful. Most often the Eagles’ crosses were deflected away by defenders or snatched up by Blanchette.
Another key area where the Eagles struggled was in the individual matchups. In the first half, BC players lost individual battles all over the field. Whether they were contested headers on the goalkeeper’s doorstep or races to a bouncing ball at midfield, the Lions out-hustled the Eagles almost every time.
In the second half, the Eagles came out with some fire and quit playing on their heels. They moved the ball better as a unit and managed to get a few scoring opportunities through balls chipped over the heads of LMU’s defensive backs.
The most notable offensive chances for the Eagles came from BC’s Trevor Davock and Simon Enstrom. Davock displayed great individual effort, running down balls in the corner all day long. He was successful in getting crosses off to better spots, but he did not receive much support in the middle of the field. Enstrom logged two shots on the day—on his second, he freed himself up at the top of the 18-yard box and saw the chance with the prime angle, but ultimately sent it whizzing by the left post.
BC took almost twice as many shots in the second half: five in the first and nine in the second. None hit the target, but BC’s offensive pushes worked to transfer the pressure to LMU’s defensive backs, who saw barely any action in the first half.
The Eagles will not play again until Friday night, so they will have some time to recover and prepare before they take on NC State on the road in their first ACC game. “It’s very hard to play for both teams, playing Friday night at 5:00 and then play[ing] at noon on Sunday,” Kelly noted after the game. “You’re supposed to have three days rest in between.”
A long tight game with a scoreless 89 minutes on the hot turf took its toll on everyone, and to think the game was decided in the first minute with the punt that gave Blanchette the game-winning assist.
Featured Image by Daniella Fasciano / Heights Editor