Quinnipiac men’s soccer wins drops game to Iona as playoff push continues

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Quinnipiac men’s soccer wins drops game to Iona as playoff push continues

Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn

Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn

Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn

Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn

Roberto Casillas

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Two MAAC heavy-weights traded punches Sunday afternoon in Hamden. Quinnipiac hosted Iona and at the end of the game it was the Gaels who came out victorious by a score of 2-1, taking sole possession of the two-seed in the MAAC.

The game ended with drama and controversy after referee Michael McBride disallowed what appeared to be the Bobcats’ equalizer in the dying stages of the game.

Quinnipiac men’s soccer head coach Eric Da Costa didn’t mince his words after the game regarding McBride’s decision.

“In spite of it not being called, it’s a goal, it’s a clear goal,” Da Costa said. “So to put ourselves in that position and then not get the result, it’s going to be hard for the boys to sleep tonight.”

Iona and Quinnipiac both came into the game with the same record (4-1-1) tied for the second seed in the MAAC.

After a hard-fought first half in which both teams played with more intensity than clarity, the teams headed to the locker room with a 0-0 tie.

The second half was a completely different story. It all started two minutes into the half when sophomore forward Mauro Bravo shot a free-kick that junior goalkeeper Jared Mazzola uncharacteristically couldn’t secure. Junior forward Najim Romero simply had to tap in the first goal of the game to put the Gaels on top. Da Costa highlighted the importance of giving away that first goal.

“The first one is out of character and, you know, comes from nothing and it sort of hits you like a shot to the gut,” Da Costa said. “I don’t think we did good enough in the next couple of minutes to fully get over that and start to move forward.”

The first goal was a big blow for the Bobcats, and in the face of adversity the team struggled to regain its composure. Just 51 seconds after going up on the score-sheet Iona capitalized on the momentum, and Bravo scored to make the score 2-0.

The first five minutes of the second half had become a nightmare for the Bobcats. Two goals in less than one minute resulted in chaos and a lack of composure from Quinnipiac.

“They’re definitely demoralizing,” Da Costa said. “The second one comes really quickly and we certainly should do better there, so we put ourselves in a very difficult position against a good team.”

With their backs against the wall, the Bobcats sent the reigning MAAC offensive player of the year, senior forward Eamon Whelan, onto the pitch to attempt a comeback in the last half-hour of play. Da Costa attributed Iona’s defensive gameplan to the reason of why Whelan didn’t see much playing time.

“It’s a different type of game,” Da Costa said. “It’s more of a counter-attacking type of game against Iona because of their system and their shape. When we do have to get it into the forward the guy has to be able to hold the ball and allow us to build up and that’s just not Eamon’s skillset.”

Whelan scored a goal that brought the Bobcats back within striking range of overtime. Freshman forward Brage Assen started the masterful, goal-scoring play. Dribbling past defenders all over the field he was able to find freshman midfielder Jason Budhai, who crossed the ball so that Whelan could shoot it in and put the scoreboard at 2-1.

Assen was fantastic throughout the day for the Bobcats. When the team was facing adversity in the second half, Assen seemed to be the key to the Bobcats’ hope of coming back. The Norway native took command of the left wing and created plenty of opportunities for a team that lacked imagination for most of the game. Da Costa spoke highly of his young player after the game.

“It’s a big moment,” Da Costa said. “It’s probably the most pressured moment that he’s been in his young career and he stepped up. That goal comes from him.”

Quinnipiac was all over Iona in last stages of the game but couldn’t find a way through to tie the game. The loss leaves the Bobcats stationed as the number three seed in the MAAC with 13 points, three behind the Gaels with three games remaining on what is a very tight race for playoff seeding.

Quinnipiac will be back in action Wednesday when they travel to Loudonville, N.Y. to face off against the current number eight seed, the Siena Saints.