WEST POINT, N.Y. - Senior midfielder Michael Leach and junior forward Tanner Robertson both scored goals, and sophomore goalkeeper Ryan Currens made it stand up as Army defeated Rider, 2-0, in a non-league men's soccer match Wednesday evening at Clinton Field.
Army opened the scoring less than 10 minutes into the contest when Leach tallied his first goal of the season from close range following a scramble in front of the net. Sophomore forward Michael Kim started the play when he lofted a corner kick into the penalty area. Leach, who was set up on the near post, corralled the ball and knocked it past Broncs' goalkeeper Matt Perrella at the 9:01 mark.
"The ball literally fell right in my lap," said Leach. "I just took a look up and hit it in and that was it. We were ready to get another one."
Army (1-7-0) controlled the play throughout the first half, outshooting Rider 8-4 in the stanza. Five of the Black Knights' eight shots were on target as Perrella made four saves to keep the Broncs within striking distance. Senior midfielder Daniel Yu had an excellent chance to double Army's lead late in the first half, but his shot from the left side of the penalty area was stopped by Perrella. Robertson had a golden opportunity to score a first half marker when he worked a pretty give-and-go with Yu, but his effort from the left side sailed just wide.
The Black Knights added to their lead less than nine minutes into the second half when Kim served the ball into the penalty area off a restart near midfield and Robertson headed it home at the 53:49 mark. Robertson was able to get a running start while the ball was in the air, and he deftly headed it past Perrella to post his first goal of the season.
Robertson, who now leads Army with four points on the year, was happy to help the Black Knights post their first victory of the year.
"It feels so great," said Robertson. "I know the boys are pumped. I'm pumped. We're just going to capture that feeling of getting our first win."
Currens had to make just two saves to earn his first career shutout. The second-year net minder, who has started Army's last six games, currently shows a 1.30 goals-against average. Perrella finished with six saves for Rider in the loss.
Army outshot Rider 6-5 in the second half, and held a 14-9 edge in shots for the game. The Broncs posted a 6-2 advantage in corner kicks. The match was extremely physical with a total of 43 fouls assessed and seven yellow cards handed out.
Army head coach Russell Payne, who picked up his first career victory as a collegiate head coach, was pleased with the effort of his team.
"To be honest, right now it is more of a relief than anything," said Payne. "I'm extremely happy for the boys because they've worked so hard. They've been a lot better than our record shows. We know how good we've been at times this year. We've given ourselves a chance to be in games and win games, but have come up a little bit short. But tonight, we were there for the full 90 minutes. We did the things that we've worked on, and we executed."
Leach, the team's captain, believes that the victory will help propel the Black Knights as they continue Patriot League play this weekend.
"It sets the tone," added Leach. "The difference between last year and this year is that we completely believe that we should be winning every game. We absolutely believe it. We didn't hang our heads after every loss this year. We knew there was going to be a turning point, and we believe that tonight is (that turning point)."
Army resumes its six-game homestand on Saturday, Oct. 2, when the Black Knights host American in a Patriot League match. Kickoff from Clinton Field is set for 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on ITT Knight Vision with Rick Johnston handling the play-by-play duties.
Notes: Army's all-time record versus Rider improves to 12-1-0 ... the shutout victory was Army's first blanking since defeating Navy, 1-0, on Nov. 7, 2008, a span of 22 games ... Army's win snapped a 22-game winless streak, a skein that dated back to the 2009 season opener ... tonight's game marked the first time that Army has scored two goals in a match since tallying two goals against Colgate on Oct. 10, 2009, a span of 12 games ... Army's two-goal margin of victory is its largest since defeating Birmingham-Southern, 3-1, on Sept. 19, 2008, a span of 34 games.