Most Cornellians use the waning days of August to relax before they face the gauntlet of classes, but Big Red teams warm up for fall success.
The men’s soccer team, however, surpassed the pre-season athletic standard, by about 5,000 miles.
From August 10th to August 18th, the Big Red booters toured England and Scotland, competing with semi-pro teams and soaking up the atmosphere of football-mad Britannia.
“One of our team goals for the trip was to have some good competition you can’t find in the States before the season starts; and also to foster a sense of cohesiveness among team members,” head coach Bryan Scales commented.
Upon arrival in London, the Yanks took some time to make some classic tourist stops, like London Bridge, Wimbledon, Buckingham Palace, and the local discos and pubs. After a few practices on English fields, the Big Red took its game up to Newcastle, to face off against Newcastle Blue Star FC. In the words of senior Nick Haigh, “it was a great feeling to finally step onto the football pitch to face off against our first real opponent.”
Cornell ultimately downed Newcastle, 2-1. On August 14th, Ponteland United FC fell to the Red, 4-0. In the final match for Cornell, on August 15th, the men defeated Gretna FC of Scotland, 2-1. Scales was pleased by his players’ performance.
“The North of England is home to some good teams. For instance, Newcastle has semi-pros and former pros, from 18 to 32 [years of age]. And Gretna, which was our toughest match, is one step from Third Division, and has a lot of salaried professionals.
“The style of play we saw was a little more direct than ours. They tend to lob balls into the box, and win aerial duels. We keep the ball on the ground more. I think they rubbed off on us a bit, and we probably rubbed off a little on them.”
As athletically enriching as it was, the direct athletic competition probably wasn’t the highlight of the tour for team. On August 16th, the team obtained tickets to see Manchester United take on Manchester City, played in senior tri-captain Rick Stimpson’s hometown of Manchester. Junior Ted Papadopoulos described the sensation of being in one of soccer’s hallowed grounds.
“The look on every player’s face as we entered Old Trafford (the stadium) can’t be put into words. Little did we know that the last second tickets we acquired were fifth row!
“The atmosphere couldn’t have been better, and the English managed to relay to us what it truly means to be a football (not soccer) fanatic.”
“There is a different atmosphere concerning soccer in England,” said Scales, “it’s more frenzied, more competitive. [England] is further advanced than we are.
“I think the immersion in a soccer culture helped the team.”
But what was the most important part of the trip for the team?
“Actually being together might have been a little more important that the competitive atmosphere,” Scales concluded.
Junior striker Ozzie Rodriguez thought the same. “. . . as we trained, we noticed that the team had developed a different mentality. Not only did the team seem closer as a group, but the level of expectations from one player to the other was higher.”
Archived article by Tom McNulty