RINDGE — Another day, another shutout for the Franklin Pierce University men’s soccer team.
The team’s eighth shutout of the season came as a 2-0 win over Saint Anselm Wednesday night at Sodexo Field in Rindge.
Judging by the Ravens’ number of shots, this game had the look of a blowout.
But it wasn’t.
Franklin Pierce outshot Saint Anselm 9-0 in the first half and 22-1 on the night, but it wasn’t until the 48th minute that the Ravens got on the board.
Graduate student Miguel Angel Pastor Gutierrez — off an assist from freshman Bernardo Prego — found the back of the net just three minutes into the second half after the Ravens spent the first half in control of possession but unable to score.
“We were patient after not scoring in the first half,” said Angel Pastor Gutierrez, who also scored the Ravens’ second goal. “The teams we’re playing against, they’re tough. In these games, it’s so difficult to score the first one because the teams are really well prepared against us. But every time we score the first one, they have to try to attack and that’s when we’re dangerous.”
Even though the first half was scoreless, the Ravens — fresh off moving to a No. 1 ranking in the national Division II poll — were in control from the start, controlling possession throughout the first 45 minutes.
Saint Anselm added an extra defender to limit Franklin Pierce’s scoring opportunities.
“It was tough game again,” said head coach Ruben Resendes. “We haven’t had many easy games this year, I think in large part because a lot of teams are preparing really well for us. That’s why the first half was hard. We made some adjustments at halftime, and we scored early. Overall, the guys played great, we just have to do a little bit better in front of the net.”
Despite the added defender, graduate student Aaron Acevedo Artes continuously found ways to get the ball on net during the first half.
His best look came in the 15th minute, hitting the left post on a shot from 20 yards out. He also crossed the ball right in front of the net a few minutes earlier, but nobody was home to bury it.
The Saint Anselm defense did everything right in the first half, but it took all of three minutes into the second half for Angel Pastor Gutierrez to put the Ravens ahead for good.
“Once you score a goal, it means the other team has to attack a little bit more,” Resendes said. “They did attack more and that’s why we were able to create a lot more quality chances in the second half. That’s what changes things.”
Both teams continued to play strong defense throughout the second half. Franklin Pierce got through the Hawks defense a handful of times, but Saint Anselm goalie Brian Underhill was there to keep the Hawks in the game up until the final seconds.
It wasn’t until Underhill was pulled on a Saint Anselm free kick late in the second half that Angel Pastor Gutierrez put in his second goal of the game with just three seconds on the clock. The shot on the empty net was from about 40 yards out.
“Once my center back cleared the ball [after the free kick], I just started running and put the ball towards our net,” Angel Pastor Gutierrez said. “When I saw the goal, there wasn’t anyone there, so I tried to shoot, and I scored. It was lucky, not going to lie.”
Luck or not, the goal gave the Ravens some insurance late in the game.
“Soccer is a cruel game,” Resendes said. “We have 22 shots, they have one, and if they just score once, the game becomes really, really complicated.”
The Ravens defense made sure the Hawks never got that goal.
“We work a lot defensively,” Resendes said. “We also work on stopping the other team’s counter attacks.”
The Ravens had to play a few different defenders Wednesday because of injuries, and were without freshman Braudilio Rodrigues, who is tied for the team lead in goals, but the Ravens have the depth to seamlessly fill those gaps.
“We have a very deep team this year,” Resendes said. “A lot of good players. Other guys are stepping up and doing great. We’re not surprised by it. There hasn’t really been a change in quality.”
Resendes said most of the starters who are out with injury are on a week-to-week basis.
With the win, the Ravens move to 10-0 (6-0 NE10). Franklin Pierce and its No. 1 ranking will next host Southern Connecticut State on Saturday.
“[The ranking] just makes every game that much harder,” Resendes said. “Everyone circles this game on their schedule. We just need to be that much more prepared. We just need to be that much better, that’s all.”