Graciano Brito increased his NCAA leading goals per game average with a first half hat trick and the men’s soccer team remained unbeaten after a 5-0 victory over the Canisius College Griffins on Friday.
The Bobcats nearly scored in the first five minutes when Pierre Soubrier played a cross from the left side that Rodrigo Uchoa headed just wide of the right post.
In the 14th minute, sophomore central midfielder Fabricio Silva found classmate Ross McGibney on the top of the 18-yard box. McGibney took a touch towards the Griffins’ goal before chipping the ball into the left corner of the net to give the Bobcats a 1-0 lead.
Silva tallied his second assist of the game just five minutes later when he found Brito unmarked 15 yards away from the net. He placed a low shot in the bottom right corner for the Bobcats second goal of the half.
Coach Eric Da Costa believes the play of McGibney, Silva, and midfielder Truong Nguyen sets the tone for the Bobcats early on.
“The three of them really control the game. They provide a great link between the defense and offense. They are forced to work at a high level for 90 minutes and really do the job for us,” Da Costa said.
While the three midfielders control the tempo of the game, Brito continues to stand out as the team’s go-to goal scorer.
In the 24th minute, Brito took a rebound in the left side of the box and lifted a shot over the outstretched arms of the Siena goalkeeper and into the side-netting.
With the Bobcats controlling possession, Brito tallied his second hat trick in three games when he bent another shot to the top right corner, giving the Bobcats a 4-0 lead at halftime.
After not playing a game last weekend, Brito said Da Costa made sure they were ready for Canisius.
“We worked real hard during the week and had some plays we wanted to run,” Brito said. “We spread them out and used our fast forwards to go at them one-on-one.”
Uchoa registered the Bobcats final goal of the game just five minutes into the second half when he scored off a rebound to give the Bobcats a 5-0 lead.
Da Costa was impressed with his team’s play after the 12 day layoff.
“We’ve played well all season, but that was probably our best effort for 90 minutes,” he said.
Bobcat fans and players both got a scare midway through the second half when Brito went down with an apparent calf injury.
Brito and Da Costa both downplayed the injury after the game, saying the problem has been lingering since the preseason.
“I injured my groin before the season started and today (Friday) I just got a cramp in my calf,” Brito said. “I should be ready for Sunday.”
Da Costa agreed with Brito and credited the training staff with getting his star forward ready to play each game.
“He didn’t practice all week as a precautionary measure. Our training staff does a great job taking care of him and getting him healthy,” Da Costa said.
The Bobcats remained unbeaten on Sunday afternoon, earning a 2-2 tie against Siena.
Siena led by scores of 1-0 and 2-1, but goals on free kicks by McGibney in the first half and Brito in the second half forced the tie.
Brito’s nine goals on the year makes him the nation’s leading scorer, and his 1.5 goals per game leads all Division I players as well.
At 5-0-1, the Bobcats are one of six teams in the country that have yet to suffer a loss on the season.
In last week’s College Soccer News Top 30, the Bobcats received votes but did not crack the rankings.
After this weekend, they have a chance to move up, but that is not a concern to Da Costa or his players.
“It would be a great honor, but we don’t talk about it,” he said. “Our concern is getting better each game and reaching the conference championship. We are only concerned with ourselves, all the positive response is great, but we have to take care of ourselves.”
After finishing the non-conference schedule unbeaten, the Bobcats prepare for the beginning of Northeast Conference play this weekend.
The Bobcats play at in-state rival Sacred Heart on Friday afternoon before traveling to Fairleigh Dickinson on Sunday.
While the early season success has been nice, Brito knows his team has one date in mind.
“We are playing to get to November 18th and the NEC championship.”