With a plethora of fans in attendance on the heels of an exciting home opener, Marist men’s soccer faced off against Florida Atlantic University on Saturday night looking to send everyone home happy on a pleasant evening in Poughkeepsie. They ultimately succeeded in completing the task at hand, taking down FAU 2-0 in a hard fought game, with Richard Morel netting both goals for the Red Foxes.
Riding high into the matchup was Marist (3-0-1), as they entered the game with an undefeated record after a gritty 2-1 home win in the rain against the University of Albany last Monday night. FAU (1-3-1), on the other hand, came into the match with only one win in four tries, including a 2-0 loss to Army on Wednesday night as a part of their trip to the Hudson Valley.
At the start of the first half, the FAU Owls initially emerged as the more ball-dominant team, consistently dominating possession and advancing the ball into the attacking third a number of times. They constantly put pressure on Marist, keeping the Red Foxes back on their heels and forcing them to stay on the defensive.
“I think we started the game off on the backfoot, and that’s somewhat attributed to FAU,” said Marist head coach Matt Viggiano. “I didn’t love our urgency from the beginning, but I think as we found the game a little bit and as we played a little more… we showed that we were dangerous.”
Midway through the first half, the tenor of the game began to shift, as Marist began consistently pushing the ball further up field, while both teams failed to convert on numerous prime scoring opportunities. These opportunities included an unsuccessful close-range shot from freshman FAU midfielder Sebastian Zettl in the 26th minute when he received a cross from a corner kick, as well as a missed shot from junior Marist left-winger Jared Juleau in the 33rd minute, which was taken from well inside of the 18 on the left side and deflected out of bounds, leading to another unsuccessful corner kick.
Juleau, who came into the game having scored a goal in two straight contests, found a different way to contribute just moments later, assisting sophomore forward Richard Morel on an emphatic go-ahead goal in the 36th minute. Juleau created the opportunity with a gorgeous feed from long-range, as the ball found its way deep inside the 18 where Morel was waiting. From there, the standout sophomore collected the ball and buried it into the top left corner of the net.
“It was a good feeling, and it put us ahead mentally,” said Morel. “That’s what we try to use in a game to try and progress, and [to] try and counter them.”
The score was another success for the duo, as Juleau also assisted Morel on a goal within the first two minutes of play in the previous match against Albany. Both Juleau and Morel have been consistent contributors on the young season, as they have been the top two goal scorers for Marist thus far.
The first-half strike was augmented by the stellar play of 2021 MAAC Goalkeeper of the Year Samuel Ilin, who made a pair of frisky saves to preserve the 1-0 lead heading into the half. He made his presence felt yet again with a save in the 59th minute when he charged out of goal to intercept a free kick, then again seconds later when he made a diving stop. The cherry on top came with one last key save in the 87th minute.
The top-notch goalkeeping, along with a bend-don’t-break defensive approach, allowed Marist to prevent FAU from capitalizing on their many opportunities. FAU squandered multiple set piece chances, including a number of corners and free kicks which were marred by fouls.
The lack of offense is a part of a larger trend for the Owls, who haven’t scored a goal in three straight games. FAU came ever so close to breaking out of their funk in the 81st minute when Ilin vacated the goal and the ball deflected away from him, leading to a wide open shot, but an offside call spoiled the opportunity.
The game was effectively clinched with just over a minute left to play, as Morel hit paydirt yet again on a strong ground ball shot from the bottom right corner of the goal box. The shot was struck so hard that it ricocheted off of FAU graduate student goalkeeper Axel Hoffman and into the right side of the net.
“The last minute and a half, we were defending pretty intensely because they were putting the pressure on us, trying to get one, but when I got the second one, it just killed them, and we knew it was gonna be a W,” said Morel.
The Red Foxes will resume play on Thursday at 7 p.m. when they travel out west to Spokane, Washington to take on the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Marist Athletics