This past weekend, the men’s soccer team squared off against the Rochester Rhinos in an exhibition game to prepare the Red for its upcoming season. Due to NCAA restrictions, the squad is only allowed to practice ten times in the off season and play in two actual games.
Head coach Bryan Scales said the game was designed partially to gauge how the team plays without consistent practice, but more importantly was a fun experience for the guys.
“We just wanted them to go out and play,” he said, adding that he was impressed by how the team performed.
Not having practiced much during the off season, Scales noted that his players were not in their peak physical shape, and pointed out that this caught up with them near the end of the game. The score was 1-0 until the last 15 minutes of regulation when the Rhinos scored twice to make the final score 3-0.
Scales said that strategy was not a big issue during this exhibition game, though he did stress defense going into the game and pointed out that the team was very successful on that front.
Holding a professional team to one goal for the majority of the game was a noteworthy accomplishment.
“We defended very well, and applied good pressure to their offense,” said Scales.
This exhibition game is not the first for the Cornell team against a professional team, as they have traveled to England to play pro teams before. These exhibition games are a good opportunity for the coaches to see how the team stands, as well as to give the team a chance to play against some formidable competition. The Rhinos are the two time defending A-league champions and are comprised of many players who could easily play at the MLS level.
“The Rhinos could probably beat some of the MLS teams out there,” Scales said of the opponent.
In addition to playing the Rhinos, the Red also faced off against Syracuse earlier this year in another exhibition game that ended in a 0-0 tie.
The Syracuse game, Scales added, was much more of an equal match because each team faces the same NCAA restrictions, whereas the Rhinos train year round.
The game came about last fall, when the coaching staff at Cornell contacted the Rhinos about a potential preseason game, an offer to which they were very receptive.
They, like Cornell, are always looking for competitive teams to play against before their own season starts.
Scales mentioned that playing good, competitive teams is always helpful in recruiting efforts as well.
Commenting on the competitiveness of the Ivy League, he said that a good number of the soccer players in the conference look to play professionally and that playing against a team like the Rhinos is not as much of a stretch as it appears.
Many of the players on that team have played against Cornell in the past.
Coach said that above all, the experience was fun for the team and mentioned that the game was especially enjoyable for sophomore Ian Pilarski, a native of nearby Rochester.
“He had a good time playing for his home town crowd,” said Scales.
Archived article by Michael Nute