The men’s soccer team may be battered and bruised, but its season is looking as promising as ever. The Red (1-2-1) will play its first home game of the season against Buffalo (2-2-1) tonight at Berman Field, looking to earn consecutive victories for the first time since October of last season.
For the third game in a row, Cornell faces an opponent it hasn’t seen in recent memory — since Oct. 27, 1993, a game which Cornell lost 3-1 — but that doesn’t bother head coach Bryan Scales.
“Scouting reports are great, but I’m still more concerned with how we approach the game and how we play,” he said. “We know that Buffalo is going to be a very good team. Last year they were in the MAC final and were being considered for the national tournament.”
Cornell is coming off a gritty, 1-0, away win against Vermont on Sunday, in the second game of the Smith Barney Nike Invitational. But Cornell has a laundry list of injured players, which has been affecting its lineup and play.
“I think what’s been difficult for us is just having a consistent lineup,” Scales said. “[Freshman Matt] Bouraee’s been in and out of the lineup, [sophomore forward/defenseman] Dana [Flanders] is now back in the lineup after coming off of sports hernia surgery. [Sophomore forward David] Browning is back in the lineup, but he’s still coming off of ACL [surgery], so we can’t ride him too hard. Senior Brian Scruton is still out with a high ankle sprain. So, just finding a consistent pairing and some matchups where guys become comfortable with each other [has been tough].”
Buffalo is coming into this game also having won its prior contest, but had a rather different kind of win than the Red did. The Bulls cruised to in a 5-1 demolition of Valparaiso on Sunday, behind the efforts of Andrae Clark. Clark’s three tallies was the most by a Buffalo player since 1998, and are his only goals of the season. He leads the team in goals and points (nine), with Braden Byler trailing him by a single goal amongst the team’s scoring leaders.
Along with Clark and Byler, Buffalo will rely on Lee Catchpole and Brian Knapp to help produce its offense. Both players are among the team leaders in shots and points. Moreover, six different players have an assist for the Bulls, a sign that Buffalo doesn’t rely on one person to create its offense.
The Red is aspiring to have this kind of team play, and thus far, has demonstrated similar ability with six different players having registered points on the young season despite its injuries. Cornell has also managed to score a goal in every one of its games, but Scales knows his team can do better offensively, especially as the season progresses and the team gets a chance to play together more.
“David Browning, Dana Flanders, Bryan Kuritzky can be dangerous,” Scales said. “All these guys are attacking-minded guys who we think will be able to gets balls into good spots and connect with their teammates. Having said that, I think we’ve had … three defenders who’ve had goals scored and one forward, so we don’t know where it’s going to come from but we just hope it does.”
Defensively, Scales is very not overly concerned with his defense’s play despite some recent injuries to players — like junior Aaron Vieira — and some inconsistent play.
“We feel very comfortable with our back four,” he said. “We think that with [sophomore] Luca [Cerretani] — who had a good game on Sunday in goal — he’s doing fine. It’s another area where we can continue to improve, but we feel pretty settled in the personnel we have back there.”
With its home-opener coming against tough opposition, Scales and the Red are excited to prove to themselves and Ancient Eight competition that they are no longer the bottom-dwellers of the league.
“We had a performance that we weren’t quite proud of on Friday, and were able to bounce back with a terrific performance on Sunday,” Scales said. “So, I think that says a lot about our group in its infancy here as we start to grow and get ready for the Ivy League season in a week and a half. So, we’re looking for good things to come down the pike.”