Although the Sunday afternoon rain had been long gone by kickoff time, a dangerously slick Lessing Field saw Fairfield end their second straight home match in a double-overtime goalless draw against Marist College.
Once the referee whistled play underway, he was more than busy until the final whistle, calling an astounding 40 fouls between the two sides. Eight yellow cards and a red card for Marist defender Kevin Kappock were also doled out before all was said and done.
Head coach Carl Rees’ side was coming off a disappointing 3-0 loss to Rider in their conference opener just four days prior. There was one statistic he was looking to put to rest: Fairfield had not scored a goal since their 1-0 win at UMass Lowell on Sept. 23.
The Stags attempted to fuel some offensive fire early, playing ambitious long balls in the early minutes, but Marist’s speed and tight defense halted them. The Red Foxes won the foot races, dispossessing Fairfield again and again within the neutral third. Marist’s pace was just as dangerous on the offensive end, with explosive runs down the flanks and through the center of midfield. Fairfield’s back line held their own as usual, shutting down most threats before anything threatened goalkeeper Matt Turner’s ‘16 net.
The Red Foxes would get the first real chance of the evening in the ninth minute, as a corner kick dangerously found its way into the six-yard box, forcing a desperate clearance from the Stag defense. Midfielder Jonathan Uy ‘18 left the crossbar shaking with his shot from just inside the 18-yard box with just over 23 minutes to play in the half.
With many possessions ending for both sides purely by a loss of footing on the soaked field, the conditions caused an injury scare for Jordan Ayris ‘15. Rushing to save a ball at the touchline by the Fairfield bench, the Ayris awkwardly pivoted on his planted foot, immediately going to the ground clutching his right knee. He would eventually get to his feet under his own power but would not return. Freshman Steven Valente would take his place for the remainder of the game.
“It’s to be determined. We think he’s got an MCL sprain,” Rees said of Ayris’ injury. “When the swelling goes down, we’ll get it evaluated and know more at a later time.”
Turner showed his savvy in goal again, confidently snagging a long free kick out of the air at the 17 minute mark. He then stonewalled a breakaway chance from Marist forward Erik Dahl, who danced his way through the middle of the Fairfield back line, nearly getting off a clear shot.
An aggressive, fast-paced first half still saw both sides go into the locker rooms scoreless. Fairfield’s lackluster offense and stout defense defined this game again, with only three shots each for both teams.
Tensions between the sides began to rise even higher after a brutal Ben Whitcomb ‘17 tackle on Marist’s Kappock. Whitcomb was shown a yellow card, sending the Marist players and bench into a frenzy, who thought it deserved a sending off. Kappock was not happy with the foul, and threw some choice words back at Whitcomb as he was temporarily subbed out.
With the game becoming more physical, Fairfield kept their cool and gained more time in the offensive third. Valente’s speed on the flank added more pace and scoring chances to the Stag counterattack. Unfortunately, no goals came, even when the referee issued a second yellow, sending off Kappock. Fairfield piled on more offensive pressure, but still struggled to seriously threaten the Red Foxes’ goal before the end of regular time.
“What do we need to score a goal? I wish I knew,” Rees said. “At the end of the day, we’re doing all the right things. In front of goal, we need to be a little bit more composed, a little bit more rational and certainly more lethal with our finishing.”
Both overtime periods saw Marist drastically pull back their shorthanded midfield and defense. Fairfield only managed two shots through both periods. Sophomore George Newton found his way inside the box, but put his low shot straight at Marist goalkeeper Mark Rajovic, forcing his only save in overtime before the second period ended.
Although Fairfield’s defense has been vital, and with Turner now posting six clean sheets of the season, the lack of scoring has already made the season a bit of an uphill battle. The Stags will be aiming to pick up their first conference win on the road in the coming week.
“I’m ready, they’re ready, the crowd’s ready,” said Rees. “The mindset of the group is great. We’re creating enough chances to win, and we will.”
Fairfield’s record overall now stands at 3-3-3 and 0-1-1 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play. They return to action on Oct. 8 at Saint Peter’s at 3 p.m. The Stags then travel to Monmouth for their next conference matchup on Oct. 11 before returning home to host Manhattan on Oct. 15. Both kickoffs are scheduled for 7 p.m.