Men’s Soccer Earns Spot in Atlantic 10 Championship

After putting the finishing touches on an unbeaten regular season, Fordham Men’s Soccer now turns their attention to the 2020-21 Atlantic 10 Championship, which begins this Thursday in Dayton, Ohio.


Fordham returns to the A-10 Championship looking to avenge the misery of a heartbreaking loss in the semifinals of that same tournament two years ago. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Fordham won’t be entering unfamiliar territory when they play in the 2020-21 Atlantic 10 Men’s Soccer Championship at the University of Dayton’s Baujan Field. The Rams finished conference play with 11 points (3-0-2) to win the north division title following their regular-season finale victory over Saint Joseph’s University. More importantly, beating SJU ensured the program’s seventh consecutive A-10 Championship appearance.

An unprecedented spring season makes way for this year’s championship, a shortened four-team bracket where the Rams enter seeded third. Fordham now plays in their sixth championship semifinal over the last seven years when they match up against second-seeded Saint Louis University on Thursday.

Head coach Carlo Acquista knows his team understands how strenuous it is to get this far into a season, given their previous experience back in 2019. “It’s all business,” said Acquista. “I just told the guys [after the SJU match] to act like you’ve been there before because we have been.”

In Acquista’s debut season, Fordham played host to the championship and battled top-seeded University of Rhode Island to an instant classic. Fordham’s gumption was on full display behind their valiant effort despite losing three starters to injuries during the match. Their semifinal collision ultimately concluded with the longest penalty kick shootout in A-10 championship history. Unfortunately, Fordham ended up on the wrong side of a 7-6 result.

Nearly two years later, Acquista admits he and the team still reflect on the heart-breaking loss to this day, saying, “Absolutely. It was a nightmare. We have a sour taste in our mouths, and it’s definitely an important motivational factor heading into the championship.”

One could also argue Saint Louis comes to Dayton with a bad aftertaste from that same tournament when you consider the Rams effectively ended their championship aspirations. SLU was denied a regular-season title and the tournament’s top seed after Fordham defeated them at Hermann Stadium to end conference play. The Billikens instead played host to Fordham again one week later in the A-10 championship quarterfinals. Both teams engaged in a closely contested defensive struggle until forward Filippo Ricupati scored the match’s lone goal on an ill-timed Billiken turnover.

SLU’s A-10 record this season (4-2) netted them 12 points, finishing just behind Dayton to earn them a wildcard spot in the championship. Forward Simon Becher’s five goals are second-most in the A-10 for an offense that has won their last two games by a combined score of 10-1.

Fortunately, the Rams defense this season has consistently shown the propensity to frustrate and neutralize opposing offensive attacks by utilizing their strengths. Fordham has conceded only four goals on the year — lowest among teams in the A-10 — while graduate transfer goalkeeper Josh Levine leads the conference, having saved 88% of the shots he’s faced this season. Combined with ample depth and experienced leadership from the likes of senior forward Sameer Fathazada, Fordham’s recipe so far leaves them as the only unbeaten team left standing.

So what must the Rams do in order to walk in and out of Dayton with their fourth tournament championship in program history? Acquista left it at one word: “Execute.”

Fordham Men’s Soccer begins its quest for another league title this Thursday when they face Saint Louis in the second semifinal match of the A-10 Championship. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. and can be seen exclusively on ESPN+.