By Danny Contreras
The CCSU men’s soccer team defeated the St. Francis (PA) Red Flash 2-0, following an amazing display of both possession and defensive soccer.
The goals were scored in the first half courtesy of Steven Bailey’s curler and Aaron Durr’s header. This game also marked the second straight clean shutout for Anthony Occhialini and his third overall.
“I think we’re playing great defense right now, you can’t expect much from the other team when we’re getting shootouts,” said Head Coach Shaun Green. “We allowed one at Monmouth last week, and championships are won on defense. Aaron Durr stepped it up; Bailey stepped it up, too. We saw the first goal, from right-back position. For me the one that stood out was Occhialini, he’s been like that all season. But you know, you can see the benefits of Coach Christian Benjamin, who’s challenged him and gotten him to where he is right now.”
CCSU came into the game following a thrashing of Robert Morris Friday night. With the momentum still going, CCSU played some amazing possession football from the get-go.
At two minutes Thomas Obasi received a corner from the right and dribbled it past two Red Flash defenders to take a shot from a tight angle; the effort went into the hands of the SFPA, Darius Motazed.
A remarkable display of passing between defenders, Mamoudou Obiate and Durr saw them get rid of half the Red Flash team until they moved down the 50- yard line into a space in the right side.
Reece Wilson then took the ball down the middle of the field, following a cross from Obasi, shooting a driver from the center which went safely into the hands of the SFPA keeper.
“I like how Jesse Menzies is playing. He is very creative on the ball. But also, Thomas Obasi; he didn’t play at his best today but he is very creative on the field,” said Green.
Steven Bailey terrorized the keeper with an amazing right footed effort; the curling of the ball gave it enough momentum for it to come out of the keeper’s hand and into the goal giving CCSU a 1-0 lead over the Red Flash.
The game was relatively quiet for the next 15 minutes until a seemingly out-of-nowhere goal was scored by Durr. Coming off a free-kick from Menzies, Durr headed the ball from the left side of the goal into the bottom right corner, giving the Blue Devils a 2-0 lead over SFPA.
The rest of the half was controlled by the Blue Devils. At the 42 minute mark, captain Ogmen Stamenkovik came out injured after a harsh tackle from a Red Flash defender left him on the ground writhing in pain.
Minutes later, on 44 minutes, it was Red Flash’s Wayne Tiller who came out with a yellow card after a tackle on a CCSU defender. The first half finished with CCSU leading 2-0.
With a secure two goal cushion, the Blue Devils went into defensive mode and switched to an unconventional, defense minded formation, 4-1-4-1. The formation allowed the CCSU back for some breathing time. The crowded midfield meant that the Red Flash could not create chances but also meant lack of firepower upfront.
As the game wore on, Occhialini’s presence grew stronger and his in-game heroics kept CCSU in the match. Every now and then the Red Flash would find some pockets in the field, behind the defense and creating chances. At 54 minutes Tiller combined with Makala Hairston in the 6-yard box to take three continuous shots on goal, all of which were saved by Occhialini.
He was tested again by Tiller and Kolorac, but they couldn’t put it behind the reach of Occhialini who saved both of them with a catch.
“The thing about this team is that they’re the best bunch of players I’ve ever had in terms of personality,” said Green. “They’re just great to be around. You know, they’re humble, no super-stars, no egos. They’ve got great personality and you can tell in the field, there’s no bitching around, everyone is doing their hard work.”
Tiller got a final chance to put St. Francis back into the game, but wasted his effort with a high bar that didn’t threaten CCSU.
The Blue Devils return home after a short road stint, on Oct. 20 at Willowbrook Park against Long Island at 7 p.m.