After being stopped short mid-season due to the COVID-19 virus, the Fairfield University men’s soccer season is back in action. This past Friday, March 26, the squad traveled to Jersey City, NJ where they faced the Saint Peter’s University Peacocks at Jaroschak field.
Although the Peacocks were the regular season champions of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in 2019, they have struggled against the Stags in the last several meetings, winning just one game in the last five years over Fairfield.
Heading into this season’s current matchup, the Stags had played two games overall, with a record of 1-1. The Peacocks on the other hand have been restricted due to COVID-19, which meant the afternoon game was their first of the season.
The game began with the Stags on their back heels, as they were completely submerged by the Peacocks dominance of possession and attacking moves. The ball was kept in the Fairfield half of the field, where goalkeeper Gordon Botterill ‘21 was called on early in the fifth minute to make a save for the Stags.
Fairfield withstood the pressure and countered the Peacocks momentum with Alex Oliveira ‘23. He glided past Saint Peter’s goalkeeper Robbie Anderson and slotted in the first goal of the game to give the Stags the lead, Oliveira’s second of the season.
The Stags were not happy with one goal, scoring another three minutes after their first. Fairfield had won a free kick in the Peacocks half of the field, where a Saint Peter’s defender brought down a Stag in the box, causing the referee to call a penalty foul.
Junior Jonathan Filipe converted from the spot, slotting his first goal of the season and giving the Stags a two goal lead. The Peacocks, who were the aggressors in the beginning of the contest, found themselves in a deep hole with time dwindling in the half.
The first 45 minutes for the Peacocks weren’t completely empty, as Saint Peter’s Dominic Laws scored a thirty-ninth minute scrappy goal from a corner kick, cutting the Stags lead 2-1 going into the break.
The goal let in by Fairfield before half-time was disappointing, but the comfort associated with a one-goal lead was surely good for the Stags’ momentum. This quickly changed when the Peacocks made a driving move into the box, which resulted in them being rewarded with a penalty in the fiftieth minute.
Jordan Jowers of the Peacocks converted from the spot, tying the game at two-a-piece and shifting the momentum towards the Peacocks. The Stags did try to fire back with a bottom center shot by Cormac Pike ‘22 that was saved by Saint Peter’s goalkeeper Anderson.
Only three minutes after Fairfield’s shot on goal, the Peacocks took their first lead of the game with a goal by Laws, his second of the game, assisted by Philip Smith to make the score 3-2 for Saint Peter’s.
This meant the Stags had to dig deep, but with only 20 minutes left in the game, time was of the essence. The comeback started with fifteen minutes remaining in the second half, where the Stags scored with a strong team goal.
The move started with Joseph Lozowski ‘23, who provided a dashing run down the right corner of Saint Peter’s defensive third, where he carried the ball and shot a cross to the center of the six-yard box. Thomas Drillien ‘24 controlled the cross and one-timed a shot that hit the top cross bar and landed beyond the goal line for a thrilling Stags equalizer.
The tie did not last for very long, as Saint Peter’s received a second penalty kick chance just 40 seconds after the Stags had just scored. Jowers powered the penalty kick low to the ground, where it skipped past Botterill to regain a one-goal advantage for the Peacocks.
Fairfield pressured aggressively down the pitch for another comeback goal, but Saint Peter’s was able to stifle the Stags from a tying goal in the final 15 minutes of the game.
A tough loss for the Stags was a thrilling contest for the fans watching online, as this was a seven goal affair. The Stags can definitely score goals, if they can adjust on the defensive end they will be a very dangerous team in the MAAC.
The Stags now have an overall record of 1-2, which is not the start the team wanted, but should not panic as there are many games left to play in the season.
Fairfield will travel to West Long Branch, NJ to face the Monmouth University Hawks on April 1 at 4:00 p.m. The previous meeting between the two teams resulted in a 3-1 win for the Stags, meaning this a perfect opportunity to return back to a record of .500 (2-2).