Berman Field has been renovated this year to include professional-looking stands, lights for night play, new grass and most importantly, a revamped concession stand. With this new food for thought, the spotlight will be on the Cornell men’s soccer team to inaugurate its new stadium with a bang.
After last year’s second-place finish in the Ivy League and a near-miss for a berth in the NCAA tournament, only a league championship coupled with an NCAA berth will be acceptable for the Big Red.
Last year marked the rebirth for the Cornell men’s soccer team. After two years of mediocre performances and an assiduous rebuilding program, the ’99 campaign sparked renewed interest and vigor in the team.
If the Red is to continue its winning ways, senior tri-captain Rick Stimpson will have to solidify his role as one of the premier strikers in the Ivies. A three-time All-Ivy selection and former Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Stimpson brings leadership, passion, and a knack for the net.
“A ring is the ultimate goal [referring to the Ivy league championship],” Stimpson said. “We have the best supporting cast this year which gives us the best chance of winning the league.”
Junior Ted Papadopolous and senior Adam Skumawitz combined for 11 goals last year and four of the final six game-winners. Both will need to have similar years for the Red to be on pace with last year’s success.
The midfield is the heart of the Red attack. For Cornell to be a success, it will need to control the middle of the field. Junior tri-captain Oswaldo “Ozzy” Rodriguez anchors the midfield. Born and raised in Bogota, Colombia, Rodriguez played for Cal State- Northridge for one year before transferring to Cornell. He scored three goals and added three assists in 15 games last season.
Other key contributors to the midfield include sophomore Alexander Polyezos and junior Ben Scher. Polyezos is a pinpoint passer and should add great depth to the up-tempo style of play. Scher is more of a defensive midfielder and will solidify the Red roadblock.
Last year’s accomplishments were a big result of stupendous defense. The 1999 Big Red set the program record with a shutout streak that extended over 481 minutes last season. Senior tri-captain Adam Brown will crank up the intensity and add emotion to the defense. Brown is a precision passer which will provide the initial stimulus for the offense. Senior David Briefel was a force in the back last year as he started all 17 games.
The one colossal loss for the Red was its goalkeeper, All-Ivy Dan Demaine. Three players are in contention for the starting spot — sophomores Carlos Rodriguez, Doug Allan and Andrew Gordon. The competition for the place between the pipes has been fierce and will force each player to step up his play. Head coach Bryan Scales has mentioned that there will be no platooning between the goalkeepers, forcing him to make a firm decision.
As each senior class departs, a new freshman class enters. The major question is whether the freshman class can partially compensate for the loss of the team’s seniors. This recruiting year marked a positive swing for the Big Red. The incoming freshman class is a strong nucleus of players which should provide the Red with some depth.
“This year’s freshman class is one of, the best I’ve here,” Scales said. “This class can play with the rest of the team and puts this year’s starting point much further ahead than previous years.”
The freshman class consists of a smart bunch of ballers who according to Scales are known as good decision makers. Ian Pilarski and Art Solis will hammer up the midfield, while Colin Nevison and Scott Benowicz should add some dangerous play and athleticism upfront.
The Red’s schedule is the most difficult in the Northeast. According to Scales, the Ivy league is the third most competitive division for soccer, and he believes that Princeton will be the Red’s toughest opponent.
“It should be a dogfight for the title,” he said.
This is a team with a highly emotional coach and a psyched up group of players seems ready to get off to a good start. Its fast and intelligent style of play should result in a season equal to or better than last year’s campaign.
Archived article by Jason Skolnik