September 5, 2007

Offense Surges in M. Soccer's Tournament Victory

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Though defense has been the traditional core of the men’s soccer team, the offense stepped into the spotlight this weekend at the University of Kentucky Nike Soccer Classic. After just two games, the team has almost equaled its goal tally from all of last season (10) by scoring six goals over the weekend, including a three-goal spree from senior midfielder Brian Kuritzky against IUPUI on Sunday.
“We just have more time playing with each other,” said junior forward Dana Flanders. “We have a set formation that our coach has installed that’s been working really well. … We’ve just gelled as a team and as an attacking group … [The best thing about our offense is] that we have multiple players who can score, who can take chances. We have people off the bench who can come in. … We have a very deep group, and they can all be dangerous.”
The team has been playing in a 4-3-3 formation, with junior forwards Flanders and David Browning usually playing on either side of sophomore Matt Bouraee up front. Bouraee noticed an improvement from last year in the team’s forward play.
“For once we were connecting well with our passes, and our movements [such as making diagonal runs] confused the defenses,” Bouraee said.
Bouraee, junior midfielder Joe Yonga, and senior midfielders Kuritzky and co-captain Aaron Vieira were named to the All-Tournament team. Despite the accolades, Kuritzky singled out the play of the backfield, centered around junior goalkeeper Luca Cerretani, as the key to the team’s success.
“We have a very solid defense dating back to last year,” Flanders said. “That’s really the strength of this team, and [the offense] just wants to help them out.”
The Red offensive players attributed the improved attack game to relaxed, unselfish play.
“We’ve been clicking, and our chemistry is really good,” Kuritzky said. “We’re all really good friends off the field and it shows on the field. You know what [a teammate’s] going to do and when they’re going to do it and even why. … None of us care who scores or how many as long as we win and we score goals. No one cares if Dave [Browning] scores 10 or Dana [Flanders] scores six or Matt [Bouraee] scores six. If one of us scores, then all of us score.”
When Flanders notched a goal before halftime to give Cornell a 2-0 lead, his first reaction was to celebrate with the teammate who had assisted on the play.
“After I scored I thought, ‘Where’s Dave?’” Flanders said. “David Browning crossed me the ball [so I could score], and the first thing I thought was to look for him.”
And though Kuritzky’s hat trick stole the show, the senior points to Browning’s goal against Kentucky as the most important one of the weekend. Browning’s header set the tone for the Red and served notice to the Wildcats.
The Cornell offense has excelled against top-ranked teams and in high-pressure situations. Sophomore J.J. Bain scored to tie up a match against No. 17 Boston University last year, and the offense helped notch victories in three of the Red’s last four Ivy match-ups. But unlike a year ago, the team is off to a fast start, already defeating big names such as Syracuse and Kentucky this season.
“I think it becomes a type of underdog case, and we’re just really motivated to prove ourselves against the top teams in the country,” Bouraee said. “Some [teams] look at us in a demeaning way and they sit back and consider it an easy game. So far the result has been positive for us, and we’re 4-0 including scrimmages.”
The team — especially the offense — is combining experience with emerging talent, as well as the quiet confidence to go all the way.
“I’d like to make first team All-Ivy and score ten goals,” Bouraee said.
As a relatively new kid on the block, Bouraee has Kuritzky as a model for team and individual accomplishments. Kuritzky related that his favorite goal of three was the one that sealed the game at the 85:17 mark.
“Even though in the beginning [of the game] I went in for a tackle and this kid caught me up pretty bad, [I was thinking] this was a good game for me,” Kuritzky said. “I felt it. I felt something. … [For] the third goal I caught a pass from a freshman [Scott Caldwell] and the goalie sort of blocked it and it came back to me, but I almost knew once I got the ball the first time, I knew I was gonna score. … For the team, it was just an exclamation point on the game.”