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Photo courtesy of BC Men's Soccer / Twitter

Men's Soccer Postmortem

Boston College Men’s soccer opened their season with a loss to Quinnipiac and ended with an overtime loss to Virginia Tech in the first round of the ACC tournament. Along the way, there was a four-game scoreless streak, three red cards, and a seemingly endless stream of injuries. There were also games like their match against Boston University, where the Eagles played to their potential, completing a comeback win despite being down a man thanks to an early red card.

An improvement from last year’s abridged season, this year had the Eagles hovering around .500 until the last game, which dropped them to 6-7-2. Undefeated at home, the Eagles won only one game on the road—just another representation of the mixed bag this season was.

What narratives shaped this season?

INJURIES

The easiest solution to what happened this season is to point out the injuries. By the time the ACC tournament rolled around, not even the starting eleven were completely healthy. Over the course of an 18-game season, where players are playing twice a week, even a minor knock can be a big deal. The Eagles, however, experienced long-term injuries in several key positions that affected the outcome of the season.

The midfield in particular was hit hard by season-altering injuries. Six games into the season Amos Shapiro-Thompson tore his ACL at Clemson, leaving a hole that proved impossible for the Eagles to completely fill. Beyond being the team’s best playmaker, Shapiro-Thompson served as the heartbeat of the team, providing an infusion of energy and sheer desire to win with every forward run or defensive tackle. Losing him had a tangible impact on the rest of the season, as a depleted midfield struggled to build chemistry.  

Matters weren’t helped with captain Kristofer Konradsson also missing games due to injury and playing restricted minutes upon his return. He would play the rest of the season on a heavily bandaged left knee, mostly as a substitute, which forced freshmen to step up and play key minutes. One such freshman was Moritz Frahm, a center back, who was drafted into the center mid position by the Eagles’ lack of depth. Drew Serafino and Aidan Farwell also saw time as the coaching staff sought to stabilize an injury-ridden midfield.

The forwards weren’t immune to injuries either. Both leading goal-scorers, Stefan Sigurdarson and Michael Suski, saw reduced minutes at different points in the season due to injury. Neither player started in the final game of the season and Suski entered the game with thirty minutes left, a clear indication that the star forward was not healthy.

Key defenders Victor Souza and Ian Buehler also missed games due to injury, while injury prevented Wil Jacques from starting the season. Standout keeper Brennan Klein, whose presence arguably changed the trajectory of the season by introducing an infusion of energy, suffered a shoulder injury against NC State and did not finish the game or play against Virginia Tech.

The list could go on. All teams deal with injuries, but the extent to which the Eagles lost key guys in key positions feels unique to this season. Who was injured influenced the formation the team played in, constantly calling for adjustments in positioning and requiring young guys to transition while still adjusting to playing in college. Injuries also prevented momentum and chemistry, especially in the midfield, where playmaking stalled. The lack of goals scored this year is likely a product of players playing through injury and the whole team constantly trying to play with a new rhythm.

FOULS AND UNLUCKY CALLS

It feels too cliché to say that luck played any role in determining the fate of the Eagles… but it’s also hard to ignore the fact that there was a ten-minute delay during the Virginia game while the referees debated whether to award a goal that should not have been allowed because the whistle was blown before the goal was scored. The goal counted, the momentum changed, and the Eagles lost the game.

Rinse, repeat across the course of the season. If a call can go against the Eagles, it did. Most of this is due to the perception around the team: having racked up eleven red cards in four years and usually out-fouling opponents, the Eagles have a reputation. Make no mistake, three red cards in a season will hurt you, whether by giving the opponent the momentum in-game or by forcing the team to expend more energy than needed to secure a win or even a tie. All told, the Eagles played around 100 minutes down a man, on top of all the injuries mentioned above. Bad fouls and bad luck certainly played a role in ending the Eagles’ season earlier than anticipated.

THE OFFENSE AND SET PIECES

In the first six games of the season, the Eagles had 104 shots, 35 on frame. In the last nine games of the season, the team had 56 shots with 23 on frame. Meanwhile, after keeping opponents to only 56 shots and 24 on frame in the first six games, opponents racked up 132 shots with 40 on frame in the final nine games of the season. The statistics correspond to where injuries started to severely impact the team and also demonstrate the chaos facing the team as they adjusted to an ever-changing reality. Possession numbers were strong for the Eagles, but rarely could the team turn that possession into dangerous chances.

The corner kick numbers tell the same story. In the first six games of the season, the Eagles routinely had either an equal number of corner kicks or more than opposing teams. For the last nine games of the season, the Eagles had an equal number of corner kicks once and usually granted opponents three times the number of set-piece opportunities. The Eagles also failed to score on a set-piece opportunity throughout the entire season, rarely even registering a shot on goal from a corner kick opportunity. When the offense is lagging, corners are an easy way to generate chaos in the box and perhaps get a fluky goal.

CONCLUSION

Not everything is doom and gloom. The Eagles have a deep team, and virtually all of their freshman class saw significant minutes this season, making the adjustment to sophomore year easier. Both of the Eagles' top two goal scorers are returning with something to prove in their senior year after missing the NCAA postseason the past two years. The defense also has the potential to remain relatively unchanged if a few players choose to use their extra eligibility. Brennan Klein promises to be an exciting addition in goal and will also have something to prove in what will be his first season as a starter.

All told, once the injuries heal, the Eagles will be able to demonstrate their true depth and talent. Things like set pieces and discipline in not taking fouls take work but are possible to dramatically improve upon in an offseason. With players regularly playing a set position in a set formation, chemistry can build naturally and the team should begin to produce the creative offense that dominated the first six games. Undefeated at Newton, the team has proven that they are a formidable opponent in the ACC and have a higher ceiling than pundits give them credit for. The Eagles are a young team and the future is bright…and hopefully injury-free.

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