By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
For a moment around the 25th minute of Sunday’s 1-1 tie against Bucknell, St. Bonaventure feared junior captain Kieran Toland’s season was in jeopardy.
Sophomore midfielder Remi Dujardin played a ball across to Toland, who stretched out for it and stood on top of the ball. His other foot got stuck in the turf and his knee jerked out of place. He whacked the ground in anger as he grabbed the knee.
Somehow, someway, the Scottish star got off the ground and walked to the sideline on his own power. He didn’t need to be substituted out.
“It was just one of those that hurts for like the first 20 seconds and then after that it was okay,” he said. “I just had to run up and down the line a couple times and then I was fine.”
It ended up being the best-case scenario. Not only was coach Kwame Oduro’s leader able to stay in the match, he ended up scoring the game-tying penalty kick with just over 20 seconds to play in regulation.
“When we got to the penalty, initially I went to take it and Kyle (Kleckner) came over and was screaming at me, ‘let me take it, let me take it,'” he said.
“I was like, ‘sure, you can have it’ and then Kwame’s shouting at me, ‘You take it, you take it,’ so I stepped up and just put it in the back of the net.”
The goal was a fresh change for a team that has lost by one 12 times over the last two seasons. Avoiding the 13th avoided a ninth loss in the last ten games dating back to last year.
“I was just trying to get that goal, which we’ve been lacking the last couple of years,” Toland said. “It’s all just about putting the ball in the back of the net.”
Perhaps the most encouraging thing is that the Bonnies expected more. They got outshot in overtime, but they kept good possession, an aspect of the game Toland excels in with his dribbling and passing ability.
“I honestly thought we were gonna go on and win it,” he said. “We had the momentum, we were playing a lot better… it was just the case of trying to get that one chance to get it in the net and unfortunately that didn’t come for us.
“I feel like the whole team was playing really well. The starters had done very good, the guys coming off the bench were even better than the guys that started, so that was a positive.”
This is the second year of captaincy for the 6-foot-2 Toland, who played for FC Buffalo of the National Premier Soccer League over the summer. The role is extremely important on a team picked to finish last in the A-10 in the preseason poll. After the 3-31-1 record the team posted the last two years, he knew the coaches would be doing the team no favors.
“The team knows what people think of us, like we all know what all these polls say about us and stuff,” Toland said. “We just try to block it out. Personally, I’ve been blocking it out the last two years, getting it out of my head.”
“Our players know they’re here to play D-I soccer, and they know that they’re good enough,” he continued. “If they weren’t good enough they’d be playing D-II, D-III or NAIA. It’s just a case of having belief and confidence in yourself, and if you can do that, then it’s just a case of gelling the team together.”
No one is predicting an A-10 tournament spot, much less a title. But Toland is seeking solid improvement.
“Realistically, I’d like to say we can get more wins than losses this year.”