Prior to a last-minute corner kick, Columbia defensive midfielder Antonio Matarazzo decided to join the group of Light Blue players in front of the net.
It was a fortunate decision for the Lions.
Sophomore back Bryce Terrill curled the corner kick, and the 6-foot-4 Matarazzo, also a sophomore, headed it past the Bearcats keeper and led the men’s soccer team (6-4-2) to a 2-1 win over Binghamton (3-8-4).
This home game was vastly different from Columbia’s last two outings at the University of Connecticut and Princeton, in which the Lions struggled to generate chances. They had no trouble getting the ball into attacking areas against the Bearcats, outshooting them 24-4 (14-1 on goal).
“I feel like we had a lot more offensive intensity this game as compared to the last couple of games,” first-year forward Nicholas Pappacena said.
Pappacena, senior midfielders David Najem and Henning Sauerbier, and first-year midfielders Andrew Tinari and Ron Zori were able to create chances every few minutes with quick, accurate passes and runs in behind the Bearcats defense. Najem, Pappacena, and Zori each pumped six shots toward the goal.
These efforts were rewarded when the Light Blue finally got on the board in the 59th minute. Following a throw-in, junior midfielder Anton Wesener made a back-heel one-touch pass to Najem on the right side. Najem slipped the ball in front to Pappacena for an easy tap-in goal.
“We’re all skillful players. Whenever we have the ball we know we can make something happen,” Pappacena said. “We just try to take advantage of the opportunities that we have.”
But the Light Blue’s lead did not last for long. Binghamton, struggling to get good attacks going all game, drew a foul within striking distance of the goal, and midfielder Ben Nicholson put the free kick into the top corner to tie the game.
Cue Matarazzo. His fourth goal of the season came with just 12 seconds left. His previous goals had come off his feet—he is known more for his headers on defense than offense.
“Winning headers is something I really pride myself on,” he said. “Offensive headers probably rely more on your movement, a little bit more on deception.”
With under six minutes on the clock, he had helped set up Columbia’s best chance to win the game prior to his goal. He sent a long ball right to Najem, who found senior striker Will Stamatis on the far side. Stamatis rang his shot off the post, but Sauerbier’s follow-up was stopped on the goal line by a Bearcats defender.
“The coaches really emphasized keeping possession,” Matarazzo said. “We were moving the ball well, by the end of the first half, but we wanted to make a few minor adjustments.”
Columbia plays at Dartmouth on Saturday.