In a rematch of last year’s Atlantic 10 Conference Championship semi-final game, the Fordham men’s soccer team faced Saint Louis University on Jack Coffey Field.
Unlike last season’s successful results, the Rams fell 1-0 to the Billikens on a disappointing own goal.
It was a frigid night for soccer, and the air was less than clear between the two teams. Fordham’s improbable win as the six seed over the second ranked Billikens in last year’s championship carried weight into the game and fueled intense play from both sides.
Neither team created substantial chances in the first half. Fordham was caught offside three times, but had two corner kicks to right their mistakes. However, neither was converted. The Billikens also had three opportunities from corner kicks, but the first half ended in a scoreless tie.
The own goal came just three minutes into the second half. Saint Louis’s Vince Cicciarelli centered a ball near the front of the net from the left side. Fordham’s keeper Rashid Nuhu came out to grab the save as a Billiken forward approached the net, but Nuhu’s teammate — sophomore defender Matthew Lewis — attempted to intercept the cross. The ball deflected into the back of the net, giving the Billikens a 1-0 lead.
The Rams’ best chance to tie the game came in the 84th minute. Freshman Janos Loebe rocketed a shot at the Saint Louis goal, which went off the outside post and back into play. Junior Andy Hickey’s rebound shot went over the crossbar, giving the Billikens possession again with a goal kick.
Though Fordham may have outshot Saint Louis 9-8, none of their shots were on net. The Billikens had three on frame, giving Nuhu two saves.
The loss brings Fordham’s overall record to 5-5-3 and 3-1 in A-10 play, while the Billikens improve to 5-5-2 on the year and 1-1-2 in the league.
The goal that gave Saint Louis the win was controversial though, as the official on the far side called the Saint Louis player who was involved in the play offsides. The refs needed to confer with one another before declaring the goal official.
Fordham defenders were not happy with the call and protested it because relatively recently, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) clarified the offside rule.
The original rule stated that: “A player in an offside position is only penalized if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by: interfering with play or, interfering with an opponent or, gaining an advantage by being in that position.”
The new rule further defines what “interfering with an opponent” means. If a player is preventing his opposition from being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing his line of vision or challenging him for the ball, the player should be called offsides. The Saint Louis player seemed to have obstructed Nuhu’s vision, as he had no idea where the ball ended up.
Also, the new rule says that a play must be looked at in terms of if the defender “acted” or “reacted” to the ball.
In the play, the Saint Louis player and Fordham’s Lewis streaked toward the goal as Nuhu was coming out for the save. It is unclear if Lewis was looking to make a deliberate play on the ball.
If Lewis was trying to make a pass out of bounds or to the outside, that is a deliberate play where he is “acting” on the ball. Therefore, the ruling that the Saint Louis player was not offsides and the goal counting should stand. However, if Lewis was just trying to break up the play, that is a reactionary misplay on the ball. If this is the case, then the goal should have been called back.
From my vantage point in the stands, the true nature of the play was difficult to determine. After speaking with some Fordham defenders, there was a universal belief that the Saint Louis player obstructed Nuhu’s vision, and that Lewis’ involvement should have been ruled a misplay.
Unfortunately, the referees do not have access to replay and are not going to take out the rule book for a thorough examination of the offsides rule in the middle of the match. The call was made as the refs saw fit, and the Rams ended up on the losing side.
The loss cannot deflate Fordham’s morale. The team still has four more games in conference play against the University of Rhode Island, George Mason, Dayton and UMass.
The Rams will face the first of these rivals, URI, on Wednesday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. for an A-10 Championship game rematch. The Rhode Island based Rams are 7-5-2 on the year with a 2-1-1 conference record, but are a team the Fordham Rams can surely beat, especially if the players channel the same intensity from the win over them last year.