As time wound down Saturday night at Berman Field, the situation looked grim for the men’s soccer team.
The squad had spent nearly 385 minutes on the field against Ivy League opponents thus far in the season and the men had found they could put nary a ball into their opponents’ nets. A 0-0 tie with Yale, a 1-0 tie with Penn and Harvard remained in their wake, and the squad was facing a 1-0 deficit to a Brown team that had gone undefeated and untied in Ivy play from the year before.
To top it off, Brown (3-6-2, 1-1-1 Ivy) had really made it difficult on Cornell (4-3-1, 0-2-2) to get any scoring chances at all during the contest.
And yet, with the home crowd cheering it on, the Red finally buried its inability to score with a shot off the boot of senior Nick Haigh at the 83:23 mark, a goal that sent the Cornell bench into a moment of instant jubilation.
One of the few Brown mistakes of the evening was a fatal one, as the Red pulled out a 1-1 tie in front of 876 screaming fans.
“I think the late goal shows a lot of character,” said head coach Bryan Scales.
Brown’s goal earlier, on the other hand, exposed the youth of the Cornell squad, as sloppy play mired the Red throughout the first 30 minutes of the match. Brown capitalized at the 21:54 mark on a classic rebound goal of the boot of junior Omar Macedo. He could not be kept away from the loose ball that came off a blast from sophomore Adam Crew. Junior Doug Allan got in the way of the first shot but couldn’t haul it in, leaving an easy put-home for Macedo.
Cornell settled down soon thereafter, but the squad realized it would have to finally put a tally on the board against an Ivy foe if it wished to escape the lower half of the League standings.
“We were disappointed in the way we handled the first half,” Scales noted.
“I thought we were tentative.”
Precious few quality chances were allowed by either team for the remainder of the first and start of the second period. Both teams tried to create space with counterattacks, but neither set of forwards again found the space that allowed Macedo to bury the first shot.
As time began to wind down for the Red, Scales began to force his defenders further forward, most noticeably in the form of Haigh. The 6-3 senior was taller than anyone else on the field and began to use the height to his advantage, winning headers and creating space for his forwards.
But it was a terrible Brown miscue in the 84th minute, not the crafty play of Haigh, that led to the Cornell goal. A poorly struck free kick by Brown’s Dustin Branan went directly to senior Ted Papadopoulos. After a series of passes, the Red fired a shot on goal that appeared headed over the bar, when Brown goalkeeper Christopher Gomez made a crucial error and tried to grab the ball as it went over the bar. The freshman mishandled the ball and
Cornell had its fifth corner of the night.
Sophomore Ian Pilarski sent the ball in, which after pinballing off a pair of legs in the box, found the foot of Haigh, who had pushed up on the play.
“I just happened to get lucky and find the goal, but it was [the result of] the entire team pushing at the goal,” Haigh said.
“We made a mistake, a mental mistake that lead to their corner kick that led to their goal,” said Brown coach Mike Noonan. “I guess Cornell deserved what they got in the end.”
The Red survived the final five minutes of regulation, though it looked
several times as though Brown might regain its lost lead, but the play of
Allan and his defenders prevented the catastrophe.
“I felt when we got to OT we were going to win,” Scales said of the momentum his squad felt it had going into sudden-death.
Each team produced a variety of great chances in overtime, and Brown nearly
won the game again off a header at the 93nd minute mark. The ball barely
went over the bar for the Bears, who seemed immediately to have carried
momentum over to the extra sessions.
The Red came close to the golden goal a number of times in the first extra
frame as well, but could never bury its shots. In the 100th minute,
freshman Peter Lynch received a brilliant pass that sprung him in alone on
Gomez, but the young forward could not bury a left footer. In the 103rd
minute, Haigh nearly got his second goal of the game when he took a header
that just barely went over the bar.
Brown would take another shot on a rebound off a free kick, but that ball
would hit the post. It would be the last real chance for either side, as the
effects of the weather and the time spent on the field finally took their
hold on both teams.
“The game just deteriorates because the players are so tired at that point,”
Noonan mentioned. “The game was meant to be played in 90 minutes.
Haigh’s score and stellar defense throughout the game earned the senior back
high marks from his coach after the game.
“I think Nick was the man of the match for us,” Scales said. “He has played
in these types of games before and knows the effort it takes.”
Noonan praised the efforts of the younger Cornell players as well.
“I think Scales has a lot to be proud of, they’ve got a good young team,”
the Bears coach admitted. “They’re going to be tough opponents down the
Haigh’s late goal kept the booters above .500 with seven games remaining in
the season. The Red will look to grab its first Ivy victory against a
Princeton squad this weekend in New Jersey.
Overall, despite disappointment, Scales felt the tie was a positive for the
“It would’ve been great to win on a golden goal at home, but we can build
on this,” the coach said. “At the end of the day, I though this was a step
forward for us.”
Archived article by Charles Persons