Fordham Men’s Soccer Wins Atlantic 10 Championship

The Rams hoisted the trophy after a 2-0 victory over George Washington on Saturday

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COURTESY OF ERIK SCHULKEN/ATLANTIC 10 CONFERENCE

Head Coach Carlo Acquista raised his first A10 Championship trophy after the Rams’ 2-0 victory against George Washington on Saturday.

By CHRISTOPHER MURRAY

The Fordham men’s soccer team defeated the George Washington University (GWU) Colonials on Saturday to win its first Atlantic 10 (A10) Championship since 2016 and fourth A10 championship since the team joined the conference in 1995. The 2-0 victory completed an undefeated campaign for the Rams, bringing their season record to 7-0-2. 

The Rams began their championship run on Thursday, April 15, with a matinee against the Saint Louis University (SLU) Billikens. Despite a nearly spotless record during the regular season, Fordham entered the game as a lower seed than the Billikens, since the Rams had acquired fewer overall points. A possible cause for this point discrepancy is the fact that Fordham played one fewer game than any other A10 team in contention for the championship series. 

Fordham surrendered the first point to the Billikens by scoring in their own net 34 minutes into the game. The team entered the halftime break down 1-0 but came out in the second half determined to right the ship. 

Defender and captain Matt Sloan, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) ’21, struck first for the Rams in the 54th minute, burying a volley from Alberto Pangrazzi, GSAS ’21, into the lower corner of the goal from outside the penalty area. 

The Rams’ positive momentum continued after the equalizer. Just three minutes later, Pangrazzi struck again, finding the back of the net with a header to give Fordham a lead it would not relinquish for the rest of the game. 

Star goalkeeper and captain Josh Levine, GSAS ’21, made five saves in the match to preserve the victory for the Rams. A ball off of the post with 19 seconds remaining nearly sent the semifinal to overtime, but Fordham escaped with the win, sending them to the championship match against GWU.

men's soccer poses on the grass with the A10 championship trophy
The team poses with the A10 Championship trophy after the game. (COURTESY OF ERIK SCHULKEN/ATLANTIC 10 TOURNAMENT)

Having just defeated the one-seeded University of Dayton Flyers in the semifinal round that same day, the Colonials entered the finals match as an underdog, filled with energy and hunger for championship triumph. Their excitement would have to be subdued, however, as just one of George Washington’s six shot attempts ended up on goal. 

With an NCAA Tournament bid on the line, the Colonials never truly threatened Fordham on the offensive end, but the Rams did not experience the same offensive woes. In the 29th minute, Sloan stepped up once again, connecting with a header off of a cross from Galen Flynn, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’24, for his fourth goal of the season to give the Rams a 1-0 lead. 

“The Rams have been comfortable from the get-go here today.”Ian Richardson, ESPN commentator

As the end of the half neared, Sloan nearly scored his second goal of the game off of an indirect free kick from outside of the box. Sloan received a touch before firing a shot toward the upper corner of the goal. Despite a deflection, goalkeeper Justin Grady, GWU ’23, made the leaping save to keep the game within reach for George Washington.

As the Colonials continued to struggle, the Rams prospered. Fordham added an insurance goal with another header. In the 54th minute, Pangrazzi struck again, finishing a cross from captain Sameer Fathazada, FCRH ’21, to give the Rams a secure two-goal lead.

“The Rams have been comfortable from the get-go here today,” noted ESPN commentator Ian Richardson as the victory came closer and closer to Fordham’s grasp.

men's soccer poses on the grass with the A10 championship trophy
The Rams celebrate their first goal against George Washington. (COURTESY OF ERIK SCHULKEN/ATLANTIC 10 TOURNAMENT)

As the final seconds ticked off of the clock in Dayton, Ohio, the Rams began to celebrate their hard-fought victory. The team jumped for joy as they crowded around their captains before Fathazada lept on top of the pile, a well-deserved celebration after such a tumultuous season.

Ultimately, six Rams were named to the All-Championship team: Sloan, Levine, Fathazada, Flynn, Pangrazzi and Luke McNamara, Gabelli School of Business at Rose Hill ’21. Sloan was also named the “Most Outstanding Player” of the tournament. 

The victory represented Head Coach Carlo Acquista’s first A10 Championship and guaranteed Fordham a ticket to the 2020 NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Tournament, rescheduled from November. 

“With many obstacles along the way, our group showed tons of resilience and perseverance.” Carlo Acquista, head coach

“Winning the A10 championship this past season has been extra special,” Acquista noted after the match. “With many obstacles along the way, our group showed tons of resilience and perseverance.” 

The Rams carry an undefeated record into the tournament and there is reason to believe they could make some noise once they get there. Fordham has only allowed five goals this season and features a dangerous combination of veteran leadership and thorough depth. 

Fordham will attempt to complete a historic season with a historic run, as the Rams have never made it past the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. The A10 champions will face Marshall University in the first round of the tournament on May 2 at 1 p.m. The tournament will air on ESPNU and feature 36 teams from across the country. Only time will tell if the Rams can overcome the mountainous challenge that lies ahead.