Defending A-10 Champion Men’s Soccer Opens The 2021 Season


Jacob Bohm, one of last year’s captains, and the Rams will look to repeat their previous success and defend the A-10 title. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Heading into the 2021 season, the Fordham Rams are coming off not only an undefeated regular season, but also a trophy-winning season. They won the Atlantic 10 Championship for the fourth time in their history by defeating Saint Louis University and George Washington University to claim the title. In addition to that, the Rams competed in the NCAA Championship where they were eliminated in the second round by the eventual champions Marshall University. In their title winning season, they boasted a record of 7-1-2 with a conference record of 3-0-2.

After an impressive season, when the United Soccer coaches released the association’s preseason college rankings, the Fordham Rams came in as 23rd in Division I. Fordham is one of four Atlantic 10 teams to have received votes for this preseason poll, with the other three being Saint Louis, the University of Massachusetts and the University of Dayton.

In addition, when the Atlantic 10 released its own preseason poll, the defending champions were predicted as the top team in the conference with 155 points and six first place votes. Saint Louis followed in second with a total of 148 points and three first place votes and Dayton finished third with 140 points and two first place votes. The conference also released its preseason All-Conference Team where the Rams had two players, Luke McNamara and Matt Sloan, named to the 13 man squad.

Last season, McNamara earned first team All-Atlantic 10 and first team All-Southeast region honors after scoring a career-high three goals. His stellar performance also got him selected to the All-Championship team after Fordham’s fourth A-10 title. As well as scoring, he helped the Rams finish the season with a team goals against average of 0.65, top 20 in the NCAA.

Sloan was also a first team All-Southeast region selection after leading the Rams in scoring with four goals. His goals in both matches in the Atlantic 10 championship, including the game-winning goal in the final against George Washington, earned him the Championship’s Most Outstanding Player award.

Going into this season, the Rams are without their starting goalkeeper from last year, Josh Levine, one of the team’s co-captains. In their title-winning year, Levine started all 10 games of the season, with a goals against average of 0.65, five clean sheets and 42 saves, which led to an astounding .857 save percentage. His goals against average tied the single season school record which was set by Ryan Meara in 2011. He was named the Atlantic 10 defensive player of the week twice and was also named in the United Soccer Coaches All-Southeast region second team.

Before the Rams first regular season game at Providence College, head coach Carlo Acquista spoke about how the team was feeling after such a successful season and if they were confident in repeating their previous success. When asked about this year’s ambitions, Coach Acquista said “the teams’ expectation going into every season never changes either as a coach or even as a player which is to win every game, compete in the Atlantic 10 championship and to compete in the NCAA [championship].” 

When asked about the Atlantic 10 poll that ranked the Rams as number one in the conference, he said that he believes that “teams like Saint Louis, Dayton, VCU and Rhode Island are the favorites every year,” adding that the team is “fortunate to be mentioned in the same breath as the other teams,” as well as stating that he believes the Rams could be viewed as underdogs for the upcoming season. 

Finally, when he asked about Levine’s departure and how the team would cope with his absence, he replied that “the team still has great leadership with players such as Sloan, Sameer [Fathazada], Jacob [Bohm], McNamara, Brandon Golden and Paul Makaj”. He admitted that Levine brought “experience from Big Ten soccer and brought a great personality to the team”. 

However, as one goalkeeper left the team, another keeper with experience joined in junior Callum James. Acquista is “excited to work with James, who last year was the Northeast Conference goalkeeper of the year. [He] also scored in the game winning shootout for St. Francis as well as having the experience of playing two NCAA games under his belt last year.” He continued to praise his new number one goalkeeper, stating that James has talent and he is very excited to work with him.

The Rams played their first game of the season against Providence on Thursday. Unfortunately, the Rams could not start the season like they did last year as they lost 3-0. After a scoreless first half, Providence opened up the scoring in the 55th minute with Luis Garcia, who scored from just outside the box on a strike that found its way into the bottom right corner of the net. 

It then remained like that until the 85th minute, when Providence broke through to make it  2-0 courtesy of Davis Smith who was left one on one with James. Garcia then made it 3-0 by scoring from a corner that bounced inside the near post. Despite conceding three goals in his debut game for the Rams, James recorded nine saves as Providence pressured him with 21 shots, 12 of them on goal.

Despite losing its opener, there are still plenty of games to play, as the Rams continue their season with an away game against Georgetown University on Sunday. Georgetown was ranked fifth in the NCAA Division I poll, so it should be an entertaining match as the two teams clash at a 1:00 PM kickoff in a season that is only beginning.