Men’s Soccer hosted two games over the Labor Day weekend and walked away with two more victories to move to 3-1 on the season, defeating both Temple University and Santa Clara University 1-0. Both wins were propelled by star junior midfielder Siad Haji.
Pregame showers left the playing surface at Sports Backers Stadium soaked, but it did not stop the Rams from taking down the Santa Clara Broncos 1-0 Sunday night in overtime.
Haji tallied the game-winning goal in the 97th minute to propel the Rams to their third straight shutout victory. Junior defender Ryo Shimazaki’s shot was deflected by the Santa Clara goalie and Haji was there to put the rebound home.
“Ryo did something that is very normal for him, he gets in a good position, then Biska goes down, we get a service and we fight and keep it alive,” said Dave Giffard, VCU head coach. “Haji does what Haji does, finishes the goal and that’s the game.”
Haji’s game-winning goal marked his second of the season.
VCU came out of the second-half break on the front foot, as the Rams outshot the Broncos 13-4 in the second half and 22-10 total.
Sophomore goalkeeper Mario Sequeira earned his second straight shutout, recording three saves against the Broncos. He had eight shutouts last season en route to being named to the 2017 Atlantic-10 All-Rookie team.
The Black and Gold hosted the Temple Owls Friday night, earning their second straight shutout victory at Sports Backers Stadium, 1-0.
VCU played a tough and physical game against the Big East opponent as the Owls were charged with 16 fouls, while the Rams had 11.
“We grit our teeth and did our job right, kept fighting and, in the end, got the result,” Giffard said after the Rams’ second shutout of the season. “We didn’t have as much control of the game (compared to last week against Radford). We had to defend for longer periods of time but it’s what you have to do to grind out results.”
The Rams had an early scoring opportunity as junior forward Biska Biyombo raced down the pitch and sent a shot toward goal, but his effort was blocked by a strong Temple defense. Biyombo had two shots in the shutout victory.
The lone VCU goal came late in the first half as Haji converted from the spot after a hard Temple foul within the 18-yard box. The 42nd minute tally marked the first goal of the season for Haji, who had two all of last year for the Black and Gold.
Sequeira was perfect between the goal posts, as he faced two shots and saved both. Friday’s shutout was the first clean sheet for Sequeira this season.
The Rams have played 277 minutes of scoreless soccer during the three-game win streak. VCU will face Big 10 foe and nationally-ranked Indiana University Friday in Bloomington. Indiana has not allowed a goal in 270 minutes through their three-game win streak.
“The key for us is not giving things away and keeping the score at zero,” Giffard said. “Let’s not do something outside the ordinary and not give anything away. Be in the right positions (and) do your roles defensively.”
Noah Fleischman Contributing Writer