Sometimes, all it takes is one lucky bounce, one moment of hesitation, one mental lapse that creates the breakthrough to win a game. Unfortunately for the men’s soccer team, it was on the wrong end of such a game-breaking moment.
After playing Buffalo back-and-forth for 102 minutes, Cornell suffered a dramatic, golden goal, 1-0 loss to Buffalo in the second overtime of its home-opener. Senior captain Andrae Clark scored the lone goal of the game, ripping his shirt off in celebration and taunting the rowdy home-crowd that had dogged his team all evening. The goal came in the third minute of the second overtime, when a through ball split the Red’s defense, leaving Clark one-on-one with a defender and his back to goal. Shielding the ball in textbook fashion, he turned and fired it into the upper-left corner from 10 yards out, leaving sophomore goaltender Luca Cerretani helpless despite the goalie’s diving effort.
“I thought we were shutting them down,” said junior forward Brian Kuritzky, whose two shots on goal tied for the game-high. “They scored five goals in the game before, and that guy No. 10 [Clark] is a great forward. He’s huge. I think everybody back there was working their tail off and [it was] just, that unlucky bounce where, if we would’ve stepped in or something like that … It’s just frustrating.”
Despite vastly different playing styles, the game had been played fairly evenly until that point. Despite being out-possesed and out-shot in the first half, Cornell was able to generate a few chances through long balls and stifle Buffalo’s attacks with swarming defense near the box. For the game, the Red was almost even in shots on goal, 5-4 in the Bulls’ favor, and was outshot 14-6.
“Buffalo’s a good team. They had a lot of shots, but they didn’t have many dangerous shots,” junior defender and co-captain Kyle Lynch said. “I thought we didn’t leak anything really, except that one at the end, which was unfortunate. I think a deflection happened so it kind of caught our defense off-guard.”
Lynch had a number of potential goal-saving tackles, and was especially good at limiting Clark’s influence during the second half.
“That [performance] is standard issue for Kyle,” head coach Bryan Scales said. “He has to do that for us. He was terrific, and we’ve seen many of those performances from him. We hope he doesn’t have to make those game-saving tackles, but at times he does.”
After the halftime whistle, the Red started to put better runs and passes together, playing a counter-attacking style and going forward in greater numbers. Yet, the Cornell’s opportunities were fired wide or were cleared out of the box. The Red managed three shots in the second frame and two in overtime, compared to just one in the first half.
“It was great to play in front of all the fans. I think we kind of got a little excited and created more chances together,” Kuritzky said of the second-half play. “Once we started to play and to show our quality as a team, that’s when we started creating chances. But then Buffalo — credit to them — they started creating chances too, so that’s when the game kind of opened up.”
[img_assist|nid=18282|title=Empty feeling|desc=Junior midfielder Brian Kuritzky makes a play on the ball during the Red’s 1-0 loss to Buffalo at Berman field yesterday.|link=popup|align=left|width=77|height=100]
“We were doing pretty well on the counterattack getting [freshman] Dana [Flanders] into space,” Lynch said. “Overall, we’re still working on that. We’ll get goals to come.”
The Bulls still managed to put passes together through the midfield, but with less frequency and into less dangerous positions than in the first half, never finding the through-ball that could catch the Cornell defense off-guard until Clarke’s final play. Despite getting eight shots off during the second frame, none of them really challenged Cerretani, and the Bulls’ frustrations with its inability to finish, the referee and the home crowd became more evident as the game progressed.
“I thought it was a pretty good performance for us,” Scales said. “As far as competing, and winning loose balls and getting up in the air and winning those battles, I thought we were pretty good. Where I thought Buffalo was a little better than us was just stringing together passes and connecting — putting plays together. I thought they were a little better in that aspect, and that’s something we continue to try to work on every day in training.”