Conference Preview: NEC men’s soccer

Jonathan Hanna, Contributor

Friday, Sept. 28 marks the beginning of Northeast Conference (NEC) men’s soccer competition. Each of the 8 teams in the conference plays each other once, and each team has four home, and four away games.

In the 2018 Northeast Conference Men’s Soccer Preseason Coaches Poll, St. Francis Brooklyn was unanimously picked to win the conference. It makes sense, seeing as the Terriers won the NEC last year. They went on to represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament where they lost 3-2 to the Fordham Rams in overtime.

The Contenders:

1st- LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds (5-3-1)

The Blackbirds currently are first in the conference and have a 4-match win streak going into conference play. The Blackbirds have one of the most potent offenses in the NEC, and they lead the league in goals with 17, which also tie them for 19th most in the NCAA. LIU also leads the league in shot accuracy, with a respectable .472, which is 47th highest in the NCAA. The Blackbirds are led by Danish senior Rasmus Hansen, who sits tied for second in the conference with four goals. LIU Brooklyn also leads the league in saves with 51. In the preseason coaches poll, the Blackbirds were picked to finish 2nd.

2nd- Saint Francis Red Flash (4-3-1)

The Red Flash are currently second in the conference and have lost only one of their past four games, going 2-1-1. Saint Francis has the second most goals in the NEC, with 12 and have the least goals allowed, with only ten. The Red Flash also has a goals-against average (GAA) of 1.190, which is 100th in the NCAA. Saint Francis is tied for first in the NEC with three shutouts. The leading scorer for Saint Francis is Mario Mastrangelo who has four goals on the year. Saint Francis was picked to finish 4th in the preseason coaches poll.

3rd- St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers (3-6)

The Terriers have been one of the best teams in the NEC over the past four years.  They have won the conference four out of the past five years. The Terriers currently sit fourth in the conference and have lost three of their past four. What the Terriers have going for them is their pedigree, and that can’t be lost. Marco Torriani has three goals on the year, while Ali Tounkara and Matteo Caribotti both have two goals each. The Terriers were picked to win the conference in the preseason coaches poll.


The Dark Horses:

4th- Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (3-4-2)

Fairleigh Dickinson is coming into conference play third in the conference, but they have not had a win in their past three games. The Knights lead the conference in shots with 118 but have only hit the back of the net five times. Ahu Obhakhan, a senior for Fairleigh Dickinson currently leads the league in goals, with five. He is also tied for 32nd in the NCAA. Sophomore Jacob Labovitz is currently second in the NCAA in shots taken, with 27, two off the lead. The Knights were picked to finish third in the NEC by the preseason coaches poll.

5th- Robert Morris Colonials (2-6-1)

Robert Morris is 2-1 in their last three games after not having a win through their first six matches. In the NEC, the Colonials currently sit in fifth place, and they lead the league in a stat many don’t want to lead, yellow cards, with 19. Senior forward Zac Sherman is tied for fourth in the conference with three goals. In net, senior netminder Winter Fondi is a solid option for the Colonials. Fondi currently has a 1.58 GAA and has three shutouts on the year, which leads the conference. In the NEC preseason coaches poll, Robert Morris was projected to finish sixth.

6th- Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers (1-5-2)

The Mountaineers lost their last game but still sit sixth in the NEC. While the Mountaineers have a very weak offense, only scoring five goals in eight games, their defense is one of the best, allowing the second fewest goals in the NEC, and Bobby Edwards has a shutout on the year. Also helping Mount St. Mary’s is the support from the Emmitsburg, Maryland community. The Mountaineers have the highest average attendance in the conference, with 525 people per game. The preseason coaches poll picked the “Mount” to finish 8th in the conference.


The Pretenders:

7th- Central Connecticut State University Blue Devils (0-6-1)

In the 2018 NEC preseason coaches poll, the Blue Devils were chosen to finish fifth in the conference, but they have yet to show what garnered that confidence. The Blue Devils currently sit last in the NEC and are near the bottom of the league in terms of most crucial stats. What the Blue Devils have going for them, however, is that they are the most disciplined teams in the NEC. They average 10.25 fouls a game, which is the 31st fewest in the NCAA, and CCSU has four yellow cards on the year, more than half that of the second lowest team. Central Connecticut’s four yellow cards it tied for the fewest in the NCAA.

8th- Bryant Bulldogs (0-6-1)

The Bulldogs currently sit in eighth in the conference and have lost their last two. The Bulldogs have allowed the most goals in the conference, with 18 goals going past the goalie tandem of Jack Sanders and Olivier Larente. Charles Desantis is tied for ninth in the conference with 15 shots on the year. Bryant is also tied with Mount St. Mary’s for the lowest goals in the NEC, with four. The Bulldogs were picked to finish seventh in the conference in the preseason coaches poll

9th- Sacred Heart Pioneers (1-6-1)

Although the Pioneers have a better record than both Bryant and Central Connecticut, Sacred Heart has been atrocious as of late. They are coming into Northeast Conference play on a five-game skid, and the Pioneers lost by a combined score of 13-5. The Pioneers leading scorer is Alejandro Arribas, who has 3 goals on the year. Segundo Navarro currently leads the NEC with 29 shots. In the preseason coaches poll, Sacred Heart was picked to finish last in the NEC.


Game of the Year:

Battle of Brooklyn- Sunday, Sept. 30

In this matchup, the high-scoring LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds face off against last years league champions in the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers. This game will have serious championship inclinations, despite it being the first NEC matchup for both these teams.