The men’s soccer team will look to channel the spirit of the legendary Brazilian striker Pelé and find the back of the net as it attempts to snap both a three-game scoreless drought and a five-game winless streak tonight against Yale at Berman Field in Ithaca.
The Red (1-5-3, 0-2-1 Ivy), which has been kept off of the scoreboard in four of its past five games, will take on a Bulldogs (4-7-1, 1-1) team that has had its own fair share of troubles this year and has dropped four consecutive games.
Despite the winless streak, head coach Bryan Scales is not worried about the team’s performance thus far.
“The morale of the team is actually great,” Scales said. “I think the [fall] break helped us both mentally and physically, which in turn allowed us to have a great week of training. We are always looking forward to our next game.”
This positive attitude bodes well for Cornell’s chances tonight, especially since Yale is currently last in the Ivy League in goals allowed with 22 — five more than Harvard, the nearest team.
The Red must not overlook Yale defensively, however, as the defending Ivy League champions have played some exceptional offensive clubs which might have inflated this statistic — most notably No. 17 Fairfield and then-No. 17 Fairleigh Dickinson. Furthermore, the Bulldogs junior goalkeeper, Erik Geiger, is only one year removed from an honorable mention All-Ivy season in which he accumulated a 7-3-4 overall record, a 0.94 goals against average and four shutouts — one of which was against Cornell.
Yet Geiger has had trouble replicating his sophomore performance this year, posting a 1.65 goals against average and saving only 70 percent of shots that have come his way, both well below his career averages.
What Yale lacks on defense, however, it makes up for on the offensive side of the ball, as the team has scored more than three times the number of goals (16) as Cornell (5). The Bulldogs’ attack is paced by its two senior leaders, James Stewart —who leads the team in points (12) and assists (4) — and Gage Hills, who leads the team with five goals.
“They are a dangerous team going forward,” Scales said. “The fact that they scored two goals against Harvard tells me right away how talented they are.”
Cornell will try to counter the potent Bulldog attack with its lockdown defense, led by the outstanding play of sophomore goalkeeper Luca Cerretani. Cerretani has made spectacular and routine saves alike during his six starts with the Red, posting a 0.59 goals against average to go along with a 0.86 save percentage in those games.
But the problem for Cornell has never been defensive, as Scales is quick to point out.
“We flat out need goals. And there is no magic formula to get them, we simply need to push guys forward, create chances and then execute. Whoever scores the first goal this game is going to have a very big advantage,” he said.
Scales will look to a number of Red forwards to get the job done, including sophomore Dana Flanders, junior Brian Kuritzky and freshman Matt Bouraee. Flanders and Kuritzky lead the team in points (3) and shots (14) respectively, while Bouraee is coming off of a spectacular four-shot performance against Harvard — one of which included scoring a goal that was called back due to an offsides call.
“I’m not in panic mode at all,” Scales said. “We have the right guys on the field, we just need to have confidence in the box and execute our opportunities.”