The 1-0 regular season finale win at Rutgers on Monday night may have been more costly than a loss for the men’s soccer team.
With the Big East Red Division title locked up and a first-round bye in the conference tournament secured, all No. 3 St. John’s (14-1-3) had to do was stay healthy and look forward to the postseason. Instead, the majority of the starters played the make-up game in New Jersey and a crucial member of the Red Storm midfield got “banged up” in the win, according to head coach Dave Masur.
Sophomore Tadeu Terra suffered an injury and was removed from the game and his status for St. John’s second- round game on Saturday is questionable. Midfielder and co-leading scorer Nelson Becerra was the only player rested. With the Terra injury and other notable absences, Masur credited the Storm’s bench strength Monday night.
“Our depth really played out and we got a good result against a really strong team that has played everyone tough,” Masur said.Trevor Chiduku sat out nursing an injury to his groin from the win over Cincinnati and defender Joel Gustafsson was held out due to an accumulation of yellow cards. Anthony Vazquez filled in for Gustafsson and played all 90 minutes for his first career start. Freshman Cristian Gonzalez got the start up front for Chiduku, and it was his shots that made the difference in the game.
In the 9th minute, Connor Lade played a high ball to Sverre Wegge Gundhus, who settled the pass with his chest. Gonzalez collected the settling pass and scored the eventual game-winner, his second of the season.
Gonzalez recorded four shots, three of which were on goal, and registered his season-high in minutes played.”Cristian was more consistent and very busy,” Masur said. “He scored a great goal.”
Rutgers’ chance for an equalizer was hurt when the Scarlet Knights’ Josh Carroll was issued a red card for a dangerous late tackle. They already had the challenge of scoring on Neal Kitson, the Big East’s shutout leader, and from the 22nd minute on, they had to try with 10 men.
After another strong defensive effort and Kitson’s two saves, St. John’s posted its 13th shutout of the season, good for third place on the all-time Red Storm list. It was a fitting way to officially end the regular season, a season when defense and goalkeeping dictated the success for the Boys of Belson.
Win, loss or injuries aside, Masur doesn’t believe the final game is indicative of how a team will perform in the postseason.
“We’ve finished with losses and freaky kinds of games in the past,” Masur said, recalling a finale loss in 2001. “Does that mean we’re not good? Well, we went on to win the Big East that year. You have to make it happen each and every game and each and every practice.”
Bjorn de Hoop, Pablo Punyed and Walter Hines all had chances at goal off the bench for St. John’s. The Scarlet Knights also had their share of chances in the second half, when they forced Kitson to make his two saves.
The final game of the regular season is also a time when a coach can see who is primed for production. And Masur has the perfect formula.
“It’s a question of when opportunity comes, are you ready for it?”