BU Men’s Soccer Seeks Bounce-Back Year

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Regular season begins tonight when the Terriers host Fordham

By Andre Khatchaturian (COM’15)

Dominique Badji led the Terriers last season with six goals, a personal best. Photos by Steve McLaughlin

Neil Roberts, Boston University men’s soccer head coach, wasted no time last week in expressing his feelings about last season.

“Just say it,” he said with a chuckle. “It was pretty bad.”

The Terriers finished seventh in the Patriot League with a 6-10-1 record, and the team managed to win only one road game in their first season in their new conference. “We were the new boys in the league,” Roberts says. “It definitely didn’t go like we wanted it to go.”

Despite last year’s dismal campaign, Roberts, now celebrating his 30th season leading the Terriers, hopes that the familiarity his team gained in their inaugural year with the Patriot League will serve them well at their first 2014 regular season game tonight against Fordham at Nickerson Field.

“I think it’s more getting used to the surroundings and teams,” says Roberts. “You get into a new field you’ve never seen. Everything’s new. The players you’re playing against and their style of play is new.”

Roberts is confident that last year’s mishaps, which included a number of players being sidelined with injuries, have helped his team prepare for the challenges they face this season. “We know what we’re in for,” Roberts says. “Everybody’s back healthy, our defenders are back healthy. We’ve got some good leadership and the attitude is good.”

Neil Roberts is entering his 30th season as head coach of men’s soccer, having guided the Terriers to 25 winning seasons and 13 NCAA tournament appearances.

He adds that last season’s disappointing initiation into the Patriot League could work to the team’s advantage this year. “They haven’t seen [what we can do]. I think that there’s probably a lack of respect for what we’re capable of doing, which is fine.”

Top returners this season include Kelvin Madzongwe (COM’15), who has played only a combined 11 games since 2011 due to various injuries but is now listed as healthy, and cocaptain Dominique Badji (SMG’15), who led the team with six goals last year and was named a 2013 All–Patriot League Second Team honoree.

The Senegalese striker hopes to build on his impressive campaign last year and establish himself as a voice in the locker room.

“I want to have the best season I’ve had in my four years,” Badji says. “I’ve dedicated a lot of time this summer to being fit, getting in front of the goal and shooting. I just want to be able to help the team win.”

“He’s going to score a lot of goals for us or create goals,” predicts Roberts of Badji. “That’s going to be important for him. He’s a very good player. He’s very fit right now. He’s healthy.”

Badji won’t be able to do it on his own. The team will also be looking to cocaptain and midfielder Jordan Barker (CAS ’15), who had four assists last season. “I’ve just come back off surgery, so I’ve been putting in extra shifts in rehab with the trainers and doing good work there,” says Barker.

Because of a series of injuries, Kelvin Madzongwe (COM’15) has played in only 11 games since being named the 2011 America East Defender of the Year.

Along with Madzongwe, Barker, and Badji, the team hopes to draw key support from Lucas McBride (CAS ’16), Jeroen Blugh (CAS ’16), and Felix de Bona (CGS ’15). McBride scored four goals last year and will have more weight on his shoulders offensively this season, given the departures of Anthony Ciccone (CGS’12, SAR’14) and Ali Sozeri (COM’14), who graduated in May. Blugh and de Bona, who each scored twice last season, are looking to build on those efforts.

Finally, Roberts is looking at the 13 freshmen new to the team—including midfielder David Amirani (CGS’16), a Brooklyn, N.Y., native who was named #1 New York Player to Watch in 2012 by topdrawersoccer.com—to fill the void left by the departing seniors.

Speaking of the away-game woes that plagued the team last year and their single victory, Badji says the Terriers need to be better prepared mentally to be successful on the road. “We have a goal in mind, and to achieve that goal we understand what we need to do,” Badji says. “Now that everyone’s on the same page, I think that traveling will help us.”

Roberts agrees that the goal this season is clear. “We want to get the team back to where we’d like to be,” he says. “We want to be a team that people talk about nationally. We know we have a lot of work to do to get there, but I think we have the team necessary to make some noise.

The BU men’s soccer team takes on Fordham tonight, Friday, August 29, at Nickerson Field, 285 Babcock St., at 7:15 p.m. Admission is free for all BU students with a sports pass, $2 for faculty and staff, and $5 for the general public. Gates open at 6 p.m.

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