September 19, 2007

M. Soccer Battles Colgate, Recruits Fans

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Ezra’s Army has been called up for duty. At the first home game of the year, the men’s soccer team will attempt to feed off of the growing contingent of fans known as Ezra’s Army and beat in-state rival Colgate tonight at 7 p.m. at Berman Field.
After a strong start, the Red (3-2) dropped its last two games. Colgate (3-2), on the other hand, is on a three-game winning streak and coming off a 1-0 win over Princeton on Friday.
The Red also has to contend with a disappointing recent history with Colgate. Cornell leads in the overall series record, 49-22-6, but the Raiders have taken the last three meetings between the two teams.
“It doesn’t feel like an Ivy league game,” said senior tri-captain Kyle Lynch. “But [it is very competitive], especially since we haven’t beaten them in the three years I’ve been here. I know it’s a very important game to me and all the seniors.”
The first home game of the season will also play host to another first for the Red. The first of a series of raffles will be held tonight in which spectators have the chance to win a jersey signed by a professional soccer team. This game’s jersey is autographed by the Mexican National Team. The raffle is one of many initiatives this season to bring out more fans, and the Red is excited to finally come home to them.
“We’ve been on planes, trains and automobiles for the last two or three weeks, so it’ll be nice to play at home in front of our fans against a very good team,” Scales said.
The Red was in Hamilton the weekend before last for the Colgate Adidas Classic, a tournament in which the Red beat Albany but lost to Richmond, and now it’s Colgate’s turn to hit the road. The Red defeated nationally respected Kentucky on the road in late August, but tonight’s face-off could be even better than that game, according to head coach Bryan Scales.
“We’ve seen them play, and they’ve seen us play this year, and I think that they’re the best team that we’ll have faced this year so far,” he said. “They’re athletic in a lot of different positions. They’re good getting forward on the break. They’ll put you under pressure, and they’re very organized. Our games with Colgate are always very difficult, and this will be a tight game.”
The Red and the Raiders are almost identical on paper, from the teams’ win-loss records to intangibles such as depth coming off the bench. Junior Colgate goalkeeper David Cappuccio even sports the same .760 save percentage as Red junior Luca Cerretani.
On offense, freshman forward Steven Miller has emerged as a scoring threat for the Raiders this year with a team-leading five points, two goals and an assist. [Senior forward] Eric Anton is “a special player who needs to be dealt with,” according to Scales. Anton scored both goals in Colgate’s 2-0 shutout against the Red on Oct. 17.
Though the Red wants to play its own game more than react to the opponent, there are certain expectations for Colgate’s style and level of play.
“They’ve been a very defensive-minded team,” Lynch said. “They’re very opportunistic. They’ll take advantage of other teams’ mistakes, but they’re very solid defensively because that’s how Colgate punishes teams.­ … They’re going to be a team that’s really going to pack it in.”
With defensive anchor Lynch returned to the backfield after being out with an injury, tonight’s game will be even more of a defensive struggle. Scales named Lynch’s return as one of the keys to tonight’s game.
“Number one, we’ve integrated Kyle Lynch back into the lineup,” Scales said. “I still think that we are tinkering with and getting experience with our back four. Kyle is coming off an injury and he’s not 90-minutes fit yet. He [played all of Sunday’s game] but he had to fight his way through it. So he’s back, which moves certain people around the field.”
Though Lynch acknowledged that his readjustment period is a concern for himself and the coaches, the draw of the first home game of the season is more than enough motivation for the senior.
“I’m much better off now than I was before the last game,” Lynch said. “It was important to me that I get that game under my belt especially before the Colgate game under the lights, our first home game. [The injury is] nagging but not enough to prevent me from playing the way I need to play … This is a year that’s supposed to be different, and we’re excited to go out there and show people what we can do.”