PHILADELPHIA – Junior forward Leon Maric scored the match-winning goal in the 98th minute to lead the Saint Joseph's men's soccer squad to a 3-2 overtime victory over #21 Fordham on Sweeney Field on Saturday afternoon. With their first Atlantic 10 win of the 2018 campaign, the Hawks improve to 7-3-2 overall and 1-0-2 in league play, earning three conference points with the victory over the team that was predicted to win the A-10 title this fall.
Also of note, SJU improves to 5-0-1 at home this season to remain unbeaten on Hawk Hill.
Maric saw the ball loose in the air after a Fordham defender miscleared it, took a touch down with Fordham's defense coming down his back, beat Rams goalkeeper Rashid Nuhu to his right, and fired off his shot just as a Fordham defender slid at him from the right side. The ball hit the back of the open net to an explosion of cheers from Sweeney Field stands.
"It's surreal," beamed Maric following the goal that knocked down the nationally-ranked Rams. "I can't put it into words. I just kept persevering through the game and got the goal."
"It was a great game," added head coach Don D'Ambra following the victory. "Fordham is a good program. They have a lot of good players. They're going to do very well in the A-10. So to knock down a proven opponent, in that fashion, says a lot for the growth of our team right now. I'm proud of them. To get our first [A-10] win is the hardest part. We let two slip by, but now we're 1-0-2, and we're in a much better position. It takes a lot of pressure off in terms of points in the standings perspective. It was a great day for our boys."
Fordham broke through first in the 37th minute, as Janos Loebe hit Jack Sluys from the left side and Sluys headed his shot into the bottom-right corner for his second goal of the season.
SJU answered less than four minutes later as redshirt junior captain Mike Fornaro blasted the ball from the midfield up to the Hawks' attacking third; freshman midfielder Garrett Lyons and senior midfielder Kyle Lochbihler created chaos in front of Nuhu, and the ball snuck through the Rams' back line for the equalizer as Fornaro earned the first goal of his collegiate career.
"We just kept fighting," said Fornaro regarding the team's mentality following Fordham's initial score. "Sometimes you put the ball in the box and good things happen. It went in, and that's all that matters. It set us up to go into the second half with high energy."
The equalizer set the match even heading into the halftime break, but just over five minutes into the second half, a brilliant sequence would put the Hawks up as sophomore defender Daniel Morales hit sophomore midfielder Alvin Dahn streaking up the left wing, and Dahn hit midfielder Derek MacKinnon perfectly for the senior's third goal of the year.
"It was really good because, typically in the last few games, we've been coming out flat in the second half," said MacKinnon of his go-ahead goal to open the second half. "Coach put an emphasis on coming out with a lot of energy and getting one early there. That goal gave us a lot of confidence to go into the rest of the game. Obviously it forced us to sit back a little bit, but it was worth it."
Fordham's Johannes Pieles equalized for the Rams late in the second half (79').
Dahn had a good look moments later and Maric, who had hit the cross bar on a shot deflected off of him by Nuhu in the 19th minute, found a bit of space and fired off a shot with 48 seconds to play in regulation, but Nuhu made a diving stop to his left for the save.
The first and only shot of overtime came from the foot of Maric, the match-winner at the 97:08 mark.
The SJU defense was phenomenal, especially late in the second half, as Fornaro was credited with a team save in the 75th minute, Dahn was credited with a team save in the 86th minute, and freshman goalkeeper Joseph Boehm made a point-blank save on Pieles in the 85th minute.
"We have guys that work hard on defense," added Fornaro. "We're really organized, we fight for each other, and we want to win. When it comes down to it, you're going to give everything you've got when you want to win games, so we get behind the ball and we play for each other."
Boehm (7-3-2, 1-0-2 A-10) made three saves, all in the second half, for the first league win of his collegiate career.
"It was a great team win," added MacKinnon. "Obviously guys worked really well together. Going forward, this is a great confidence builder for the rest of the conference season. Beating a team like that is very difficult, and it feels great to win."
Saint Joseph's hits the road for a pair of league contests next week, beginning at Davidson (5-4-0, 1-0-0) this Wednesday, October 10. Kickoff at Alumni Stadium is set for 7:00 p.m.; the Wildcats play Dayton this evening before hosting the Hawks.