Rookie Abrams stars in first collegiate start

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Rookie Abrams stars in first collegiate start

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Following a week that included two lopsided defeats to No. 17 Southern Methodist University and Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) rivals the College of William & Mary, Northeastern University men’s soccer hoped to rebound with two important matches against Elon University and cross-city rivals Boston University.

The Huskies traveled south Saturday to take on the Phoenix of Elon University in a late-season CAA matchup. The Huskies reverted to their standard four-defender formation for the match after a change of system against Southern Methodist University earlier in the week.

Though the last thing the Huskies wanted after last week’s debacle was to fall behind early, the Phoenix came out flying.

In the 12th minute of play, a corner kick made its way into the Huskies’ penalty box where it eventually fell to the feet of forward Tuki Tayali, who made no mistake placing his shot past the reach of fourth-year Husky goalkeeper Jonathan Thurreson.

Just seven minutes later, the Phoenix struck again. John Walden found himself behind the Husky backline, one-on-one with Thuresson. Walden’s patience paid off, as he finished his chance at the last possible moment, putting his side up two just 20 minutes into the affair.

After Walden’s goal, the floodgates officially opened and Elon tacked on two more goals in five minutes to stretch their lead to 4-0 inside of 25 minutes.

Neither side scored for the remainder of the match, with Northeastern creating a few half-chances, but nothing that seriously threatened the Phoenix.

Head coach Chris Gbandi wasn’t thrilled with his team’s effort away from home and talked about the mentality around the team that seems to allow the opposition to pour in goals rapidly after breaking through for the first time.

“It just seems like every time they get that first or second goal, the ‘here we go again’ mentality kind of crept in,” Gbandi said. “Then they go and score more goals.”

Despite poor performances in the last three games, beating a cross-town rival can prove to be a pivotal point in the season. Boston University came to Northeastern’s turf Tuesday night at Parsons Field, where the Huskies looked to leave their poor play in North Carolina and secure a result in Brookline.

First-year goalkeeper Noah Abrams started in between the pipes for the Huskies, his first ever collegiate appearance in a starting lineup.

Both teams came out with high energy early, a result of the intense atmosphere surrounding the rivalry game.

It appeared to be “Groundhog Day” for the Huskies, however, as the Terriers struck first. Matt McDonnell navigated around the four Northeastern defenders en route to the endline, where he was able to sneak a shot past Abrams into the left hand corner.

The match appeared to stall after McDonnell’s strike, and neither side created much in terms of goal scoring opportunities.

The Huskies’ resilience during the match finally paid off in the 75th minute when first-year forward Dan Munch’s first collegiate goal brought Northeastern level with the Terriers.

Fourth-year midfielder Lewis Aird whipped in a cross from the left touchline, finding third-year forward Khori Bennett. Munch continued a run up from midfield, where Bennett was able to find him with a delicate pass. Munch did the rest, striking a right-footed shot past the Terrier goalkeeper to level the match at one apiece.

The score remained steady well into extra time, where Abrams was tested in the biggest moment of his short career. In the 109th minute, Terrier forward Maxwell Aunger was through one-on-one with the young keeper from London, England. Abrams was not fazed, however, as he denied Aunger to secure the draw for the Huskies.

Gbandi praised the play of his first-year goalkeeper, and he hopes to see Abrams improve and secure the starting spot next season.

“Noah was a big recruit coming in from the 2017 class,” Gbandi said. “I thought he did well, and he saved us in some situations. His communication and organization for a young goalkeeper is great, he does a great job with that. We would like for him to be our guy for the future, he’ll have some competition but we’re pretty happy he was able to play well last night.”

Gbandi noticed the atmosphere surrounding his team before and during the match. Though it is just another regular season non-conference game, playing Boston University always raises the intensity a few notches.

“It’s never really just another game,” Gbandi said. “A lot of these players know each other, and it becomes a battle and adds an intensity pieces that coaches value. It’s an important game, and one that you want to play well in against guys you see a lot.”

Though not a win, a draw is certainly welcome for the Huskies after the rough stretch they endured. They will look to build on Tuesday’s performance Saturday night at Parsons Field against CAA opponents James Madison University in a crucial late season conference matchup.