by Patrick Gustavson
Central Connecticut’s men’s soccer team could not muster much offense as they fell to Columbia by a score of 2-0, falling to a record of 3-4-1 on the season.
However, the Blue Devils might have suffered a worse loss than the scoreboard indicated. They were forced to play the entire second half without goalkeeper Nick Velleca, who was injured with just minutes to play in the first half. The injury occurred when he aggressively left the goal on a corner kick and collided with a Columbia player, re-injuring his ACL, an injury which he had just returned from, per Green.
Following the game, it was feared that Velleca would be lost for the season. “It might have finished his college career today. I thought he had a great chance to go pro this year, too,” said Green.
Velleca, a fifth year graduate student, is a team leader both on and off the field. He had started three games prior to Friday night, most notably shutting out Florida Gulf Coast.
Seeing action in all four of his seasons with the team, perhaps his best was in 2016, when he led the conference in saves per game, in in-conference games and was second in total saves.
More importantly however, are his contributions off the field. “He’s the heart of the team: he’s our leader, he’s our motivator, he’s our captain, he’s our motivator in the locker room,” Green said. “We haven’t had a chance to take in how bad this is going to put us back.”
Velleca was replaced in the second half by junior Carson D’Ambrosio, who shut down the Columbia offense, saving all six shots on goal. He also received a vote of confidence from his coach for the rest of the way.
Both of Columbia’s goals were scored by forward Arthur Bosua, one on a pass from Danny Laranetto in minute 21, and with a header on a corner kick from Beto Carillo in minute 34.
Blue Devil’s head coach Shaun Green, sang Bosua’s praises following the game. “The number nine (Bosua) up top is a very intelligent player, and we had to shut him down, and that was the game plan,” he said. “The difference today was number nine; he is a top-class, quality player, and a professional quality player, for sure.”
The Blue Devils failed to capitalize on opportunities to score, including eight corner kicks and 14 shots on goal. After allowing the two first half goals, the defense tightened up, holding the Lions scoreless in the second half.
Despite the loss, Green was pleased with his team’s performance, particularly taking Columbia’s undefeated record into consideration: “It may sound a bit strange, but take away those two goals, those couple seconds in the game, and we matched them,” he said.
“We gave it as good as we’ve got today. We created opportunities, we matched them in possession time. I thought we were as good as Columbia tonight, regardless of the score line.”