The Fairfield University men’s soccer team played in two games this past week, hosting Harvard University and making a short trek to the Garden State by facing off against conference-foe Rider University.
The Crimson paid their visit to Fairfield on Tuesday, Sept. 19. After a quiet first 25 minutes in which neither team managed a shot on goal, the Crimson exerted control of the match by sparking a three-goal rally in an eight-minute span beginning at the 27-minute mark, and in the blink of an eye, the Crimson led the Stags by a 3-0 margin.
Going into the half, the Stags knew that there were at least 45 minutes left of soccer to play and came out of the gate with much-needed renewed confidence. Forward Asher Rosen ‘27 led the effort by running down the right flank and saw an opportunity by sending a cross across the box to midfielder William Pierce ‘26, who found an opening on the right side of the goal to put Fairfield on the scoreboard with his third goal of the campaign.
Pierce did not take his goal for granted, as he and his teammates went back to doing everything they could to narrow the gap, and they eventually got a huge opportunity at the 65-minute mark thanks to a penalty kick awarded to the sophomore. Pierce, a New Zealand native capitalized on this opportunity by sinking the ball right under the crossbar to make it a 3-2 deficit.
On their next possession, Fairfield nearly caught up to their counterparts when forward Kaea Rangihaeata ‘26 broke loose inside the box and sought an opening in the left corner. Unfortunately, Harvard goaltender Lucian Wood was able to react in time by diving to his left and making the save.
Harvard responded by scoring shortly thereafter, as the Crimson Dylan Tellado buried in his second goal of the frame, regaining their two-goal lead and never looked back, as they took the win, 4-2.
Despite the loss, head coach Dean Rees was pleased with the squad’s resiliency in the second half.
“They have some special players with very good individual skills and we had trouble when they got isolated,” Head Coach Carl Rees said, according to the game’s official press release. “We changed our shape and that helped us. I am really proud of the guys for coming back with the spirit and the fight.”
The Stags kicked off their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference season by heading down to Lawrenceville, N.J., to take on Rider University. The Stags unfortunately could not get anything past Rider goaltender Adam Salama, who played a large role in the 2-0 shutout victory for Rider. The Stags though, did present challenges to the Rider netminder late in the contest, as midfielders Joseph Stocchetti ‘24 and Sam Danner ‘26 came close to being difference makers as they shot twice on goal that required Salama to make saves in the final ten minutes of action. Salama made six saves on the day while the Stags shot the ball 12 times.
On the other end, Fairfield netminder Victor Nikolov ‘26 had himself a game. The Bulgarian native recorded six saves while facing 19 shots overall. Despite giving up two goals, the sophomore stepped up and did what he could to keep the Stags afloat, which had the players in front of him playing hard, in the end, to back up his superb play by creating excellent scoring opportunities.
Even though the Stags failed to get in the win column this week, there are some positives. Pierce was named the MAAC Rookie of the Week this past week, who scored the Stags’ two goals in the loss to Harvard last Tuesday. The sophomore currently leads the crew with four goals and eight total points in the campaign. His two other goals came in a 6-0 rout against Brown University on Sep. 4. As a result of his stellar performances, Pierce became the first Stag to have two or more goals in two games in a season since Jonathan Felipe accomplished the feat in 2021 in games against Rider University and Canisius College, in which he pulled off the hat trick.
Additionally, Pierce is tied for the conference lead in goals with four, and is currently averaging one point a game in eight games played this season. The 1.00 point per game rate is currently third in the MAAC.
The team will rest and prepare for the weekend as they look to rebound in a tilt against Niagara University on Saturday, Sep. 30 at Lessing Field. Kickoff time is projected at 2 p.m. For more information on the Fairfield University men’s soccer team as they continue to meander through their conference season, please visit www.fairfieldstags.com.