It hasn’t exactly been the start the Fordham men’s soccer team was looking for.
Coming off their stellar end-of-season run last fall, when the Rams captured the 2014 Atlantic 10 Conference Championship, expectations for the 2015 season were high.
Instead, the Rams have not won a game yet and are 0-3, despite returning a similar roster with several talented new additions.
The team’s first three losses, to Boston University, Loyola University – Chicago and DePaul University respectively, have been both heart-wrenching and disappointing.
The Rams’ season-opener against Boston University on Aug. 28 resulted in a 2-1 overtime loss nearly identical to last year’s opening overtime loss to the Terriers.
Fordham had the momentum throughout the first half. The players were in sync on their passes, runs and defensive communication. A few opportunities were created on either side, but none were finished and the score remained knotted at zero at half.
After the break, the Rams built up their momentum. In the 73rd minute, sophomore Jannik Loebe flicked a cross over the crossbar, spoiling a chance. However, his freshman brother, Janos Loebe, did not miss his shot at goal a minute later.
Graduate student Gabe Stauber put a lead pass through to the younger Loebe, who one-touched it to the left of BU’s goalkeeper. It was the German’s first collegiate goal, and it put the Rams ahead 1-0.
“It was a good pass from Gabe, and I was alone in front of the goalie,” Janos Loebe said. “I’m glad to help the team as a new player.”
However, the turning point of the game came in the 83rd minute when Fordham’s Stauber took down BU forward Anthony Viteri inside the18-yard box. The referee sent Stauber off with a red card and the Terriers’ Felix De Bona put away the subsequent penalty kick to tie the game at one.
BU’s momentum continued into overtime, and Fordham could not respond. In the 95th minute, the Terriers put together a sequence of passes, with T.J. Butzke one-timing a shot into the back of the net for the golden goal and 2-1 win.
“It all just changed on that one play [in regulation],” coach Jim McElderry said. “I thought overall our guys played really well, and I thought they deserved to get something out of the game.”
Senior Ryan Cupolo agreed with McElderry.
“We thought we outplayed them,” Cupolo said. “We played well, but it’s a game of results and we didn’t get the result today.”
Despite the opening loss, Fordham had a week to re-group before flying to Chicago for the first time since 1977 to face Loyola University – Chicago on Sept. 4.
The Rams’ confidence was knocked in the tenth minute when the Ramblers got on the board courtesy of a Fordham own goal.
Fordham bounced back three minutes later, when senior Ryan Walsh scored his first goal of the season off a pass from Janos Loebe.
Tied at the break, Loyola-Chicago got the better of the play in the second half as they took a 2-1 lead in the 63rd minute and held on to win.
“We are a little bit mad, we needed two or three goals really,” Janos Loebe said. “We are all a little bit disappointed.”
Two days later against DePaul, Fordham only mustered two shots on goal, while the Blue Demons had seven and converted four of them for the 4-0 victory.
The team’s opening performances against three out-of-conference rivals was lacking, but the season is not doomed. The team lost their first two games last year, but look at where they ended up.
Beating the third, second and first ranked teams in succession to take the Atlantic 10 title was no easy feat, considering the Rams’ eighth-ranked position at the conference championship. Though the squad lost a few seniors to graduation, the returning players and recent additions have the talent, experience and ability to defend their title if they play the way they are capable of.
On the defensive end, Cupolo and sophomores Christopher Bazzinni and Matthew Lewis were strong last year, while junior Andy Hickey’s good health coming off of injury this fall will be crucial. Equally important will be their communication with freshman keeper Nuhu.
Junior Ole Sandnes and sophomore Jannik Loebe must control the midfield in future games, while looking to send the ball high and wide to red-shirt senior Andres Penfold and senior Kyle Biterman up top. Contributions from seniors Walsh and Tomas Penfold will add veteran experience, while sophomore Chris Ohlendorf can add a spark of energy off the bench.
New additions in freshman Janos Loebe and graduate students Zimmerman and Stauber will also add to the Rams’ fire power.
McElderry is also convinced his guys can put on a better showing than they have thus far. “We have plenty to work on, but the potential of this group is very high,” he said. “We can have a lot of success this year if we can just continue to work and improve.”