The dynamic of a soccer team can be broken down into two roles: the offense scores and the defense protects the goal. For the Stony Brook men’s soccer team, they have plenty of players who can score from both the offense and the defense.
“When you attack and create chances as much as we do and get corner kicks and throw-ins deep, we look to get the ball into the box,” head coach Ryan Anatol said. “We have some guys in the air who are really strong like [fifth year defender] Lars Togstad, [graduate defender] Eric McKenna and [senior defender] Danny Espinoza, we can be successful with them.”
The Seawolves put together a dominant performance, as senior forward Vince Erdei and McKenna were able to find the back of the net for a goal each, taking down the NJIT Highlanders 2-1 at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium Wednesday night. Their overall record now sits at 4-1-1.
Espinoza threw the ball into the box and McKenna soared above the NJIT defenders to precisely place the ball with his head into the right side netting for a 2-0 lead in the 76th minute.
McKenna’s goal was his first of season but not the first from the defense. Espinoza scored the game-winner against Seton Hall back on Sept. 1.
“We got some big guys, Lars and I especially, we gotta get on to them,” McKenna said about the defenders pushing up on kicks and throw-ins. “We work on those every day in practice, so we should be good at them. It was good to get one today.”
With just over five minutes left to play in the game, NJIT’s senior forward Mamadou Guirassy ripped a shot from the right side of the 18-yard box that got past Stony Brook’s redshirt senior goalkeeper Tom McMahon’s outstretched hands, cutting Stony Brook’s lead down to 2-1.
However, the defense was able to lock down the Highlanders and the Seawolves went home with another victory. Without McKenna’s goal, the game would have tied at one and required overtime.
“With that back line, coming into a group of experienced guys, those first few days were tough,” McKenna said. “Having such a short preseason, we had to make the most of it, and I think we’ve done really good so far.”
Erdei scored the first goal of the evening after graduate forward Robin Bjornholm-Jatta was fouled in the box in the 59th minute. Erdei was calm and composed as he stepped up and buried the free kick, giving Stony Brook a 1-0 lead.
The goal was Erdei’s fourth this year. Last season, the forward co-led the team with senior midfielder Thibault Duval with six goals. He now needs just one goal to crack the Top 10 in career goals in Stony Brook Men’s Soccer program history.
The game was an all around powerful performance by the Seawolves, who outshot the Highlanders 10-1 in just the first half. Although the team could not score in that first half, Anatol was impressed with his team’s play.
“I thought that first half was the best half of soccer we’ve played in the entire fall season,” Anatol said. “I think we completely dominated the play in the first half. I thought we were good defensively, and I think we created a number of chances as well.”
However, as it is with every game, Anatol knows that work still needs to be done.
“I was a little disappointed at the goal that gave up, I thought it was a little soft that we let him run 10-15 yards and take a shot,” Anatol said. “We created chances, but we gotta put those in the back of the net. I thought some chances, the keeper made some great saves, but on other ones, we have to finish those.”
The 4-1-1 start to the season is the best start the men’s soccer team has had through the first six games since 2004, when the team began the season with the same record. The Seawolves look to improve upon their hot start when they go on the road to face Bryant on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 1 p.m.