FAIRFIELD, CT – Graduate student forward Elliott Otmani (La Ciotat, France/Bonaparte) scored the game-winning goal and added an assist as the fifth-seeded Rider University men’s soccer team stunned top-seeded Fairfield, 2-0, in the MAAC Championship Semifinals Thursday night on Lessing Field. With the win, the Broncs (9-9-1) advance to the MAAC Championship Game Sunday at No. 2 Quinnipiac. The championship game appearance will be Rider’s fourth-straight. The loss was Fairfield’s (11-5-2) first to a MAAC foe this season after going 8-0-2 in the regular season and the first in the last 21 games against league competition (last loss – Sept. 30, 2017 vs. Canisius).
Otmani got the Broncs on the board in the 48th minute, as Mathis Catanzaro (Montpellier, France/MHSC) played the ball wide to the goal line to Taner Bay (Webster, NY/Webster Thomas), who crossed in front to Otmani for the score. Otmani’s goal was the 30th of his career. Combined with his 21 assists (at that moment), Otmani became just the third Bronc to compile 30 goals and 20 assists, joining Craig Wicken and Bobby Smith.
In the 73rd minute, Otmani sent a beautiful cross from the goal line left that Catanzaro easily finished from close range for the 2-0 lead and Otmani’s 22nd career assist.
Quotes and Notes
“They’re a great team. Great respect. (Carl Rees) is a great coach. It feels fantastic. This one feels fantastic. To be honest, I wasn’t sure where it was going to go. But we just came out with fire in the second half. That’s the kind of team that I know we can be.”
“We suffered a lot this year. We lost a lot of close games – we lost eight games by one goal, we blew some leads. Now, we’re coming into our own and at the right time.”
“Hopefully we’ve learned. We suffered a lot with those last-minute goals we surrendered and overtime games. Now we’re hitting our stride. We always wanted to hit our stride at the end of the year. But if you’d have asked me after those losses, did I think we’d be in the finals? I’m not sure.”
“I just think guys are concentrating more. We have some good defenders back there. I think we blew some leads because we would switch off mentally. So now, I think we’ve learned from our mistakes. Honestly, some of these losses we had this year were really painful because they came in the last minutes, last seconds, and I think we’re putting in a full 90 now. I’m just happy for this group.”
“This has been an incredible run. Give our guys credit for dialing in. At the end of the day, I’m happy for Elliott. You can’t meet a better human being and he’s a heck of a soccer player.” – Rider Head Coach Charlie Inverso
“I don’t really look at my stats, being like ‘oh, I scored that many goals, I scored that many assists,’ because it doesn’t matter. I would just say ‘thank you very much’ to all of my teammates. It’s an individual accomplishment. But it’s actually teamwork. I don’t take credit for that. I’m glad for Rider because it means that we got points off of that. But it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is the team. And today, I’m proud of the team effort.”
“My personal theory is when you only count on one or two players, you never win anything. When you have a team, you can achieve a lot. It’s not about talent. It’s about teamwork. It’s about making sacrifices for each other. That’s how it works and that’s how Rider is. We have some good players. But it’s always about the team.” – Graduate Student forward Elliott Otmani
- The Broncs earn a measure of payback against Fairfield following a pair of heartbreakers in the last two against the Stags, including a 1-0 result in the 2017 MAAC Championship Game.
- Rider scored twice against Fairfield for the second time this season. The Broncs alone (4 goals) matched the goal total of the rest of the MAAC combined (4 goal) against the Stags this season.
- The clean sheet was Rider’s fourth-straight and sixth of the season.
- The Broncs are now 15-8-2 in 25 all-time MAAC Tournament contests covering 12 berths.
- Otmani has now registered a point in all eight of Rider’s wins against MAAC foes this season, including goals in five.
- Rider stopped a three-game Fairfield winning streak in the series and cut the Stags’ lead in the all-time series to 20-9-1. Fairfield’s edge in MAAC Championship meetings is now 4-3.
- The Broncs played the last meeting with Fairfield without the services of All-MAAC center backs Sylvain Coco (Nimes, France/University of Montpellier) and Arthur Herpreck (Brest, France/West Brittany), who were serving suspensions for accumulations of cautions.
Broncs By The Numbers
- Otmani’s seventh goal of the year ties Pablo DeCastro (Madrid, Spain/Universidad Francisco de Vittoria) for the team lead. He’s also now tied for seventh in program history with Anselmo Bryan.
- Otmani’s assist, his team-leading 10th of the year, was the 22nd of his career, moving him alone into sixth in program history past All-American Christian Flath, as well as Neil Charles.
- Catanzaro’s goal was his first of the season after scoring three times as a redshirt freshman in 2017.
- Bay now has three assists, placing him alone in second on the team behind Otmani.
- Sophomore goalkeeper Pablo Gatinois (Madrid, Spain/Lycee Francais de Madrid [Oregon State]) made two saves for his sixth shutout of the season.
- Rider took a 13-9 edge in shots, including a 7-2 advantage in shots on goal.
- Fairfield took three corner kicks to the Broncs’ two.