The 23rd nationally ranked Montclair State University men’s soccer team was held to a scoreless draw in their home and season opener against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).
The fans were out in full force, especially the men’s basketball team, who roared and kept the energy levels up.
And although it was an intense back-and-forth battle, head coach Todd Tumelty believes the Red Hawks had the advantage for most of the match.
“I thought that once we kind of figured out what their game plan was I thought we had a good game plan put into place,” Tumelty said. “Then in the second half, we made some adjustments and I think we had the better of play in the second half.”
The Engineers were content with sitting back deep and looked to get out running on any counterattack opportunities. Playing super compact made it difficult for the Red Hawks to break them down, which led to mostly half chances for Montclair State.
RPI goalkeeper Luke Brezak kept the Engineers in the game with two massive saves. One came from the 19th minute off of a shot from freshman midfielder Chris Fontanazza, and another came from sophomore defender Ian Chesney off of a corner kick in the 31st minute.
The Red Hawks outshot the Engineers as they were able to put up 11 shots compared to only three for RPI and even had the game’s only two shots on target.
At times, RPI seemed to be able to have some success at holding onto the ball but because of the Engineers playing very defensively and Montclair State keeping the pressure on, it was difficult to find any openings.
“I thought they did a decent job at moving the ball and keeping possession,” Tumelty said. “But I think we frustrated them with our pressure defense.”
For Montclair State, it was Chesney and senior forward Josiah Crawford who stood out. Crawford was consistently attacking and putting immense pressure on the RPI defenders while Chesney was eliminating almost every attacking threat from the Engineers.
“I thought defensively we did a really good job,” Tumelty said. “I felt we had opportunities to score goals, we just have to find a way to put it in the back of the net, if we can do that, I think we have a pretty good outlook on the season.”
Throughout last season, the Red Hawks accumulated a total of 13 clean sheets. Getting one to start the season and in any game is very important to Chesney.
“I think the back line for the past two weeks we have just been working as a unit together and getting comfortable with each other,” Chesney said. “And we know that we’re all going to make mistakes but we just have to recover for each other and if we’re working for each other and next to each other, we’ll be good.”
Although it was a frustrating outcome for the Red Hawks, Chesney believes a lot can be taken from the draw.
“I definitely thought we saw a lot of positives out of it,” Chesney said. “Obviously we gave up zero goals which is what you want to do every game. We had a few chances to score but we didn’t, you know, it happens, it’s soccer, you can’t win them all. But there were definitely a lot of positives that came out of this.”
A lot of aspects of the team came together in their first game. While it doesn’t reflect on their record, the Montclair State men’s soccer team will be just fine going forward into the season.