October 10, 2007

M. Soccer Dominated by No. 8 Harvard

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Over 800 soccer fans crowded the stands at Berman Field on Saturday, braving the Fall Break temptation to flee Ithaca as well as Mother Nature — which delayed the start of the game by an hour — to watch the men’s soccer team fall to No. 8 Harvard, 4-1.
Although Cornell (5-4, 0-1) players recognized the ability of No. 8 Harvard (8-1-1, 1-0), their expectations were much higher than the final score on Saturday.
“Harvard out-played us in a lot of facets of the game,” said head coach Bryan Scales. “They were better. They came to win, and we took it in the chin [Saturday]. I don’t want to say we were in the game or out of the game, but they were the better team. They deserved to win.”
Sophomore forward Matt Bouraee agreed with his coach regarding the team’s performance.
“People [on our team] think that Harvard should have won,” he said. “Usually we never admit we should have lost.”
Bouraee scored the only Cornell goal of the game, tying senior tri-captain Brian Kuritzky for the team lead with five tallies on the year. The top goal-scorers for the Red agreed that the team’s performance on Saturday was embarrassing.
“We just didn’t show up,” Kuritzky said. “Against a team like [Harvard] we didn’t even play half as good as we could have, and against a team like that they’re going to punish us and that’s exactly what they did. It’s embarrassing to lose like that in front of our fans, and it’s embarrassing to just not show up for an Ivy League game.”
Cornell started strong with an aggressive offense. Five minutes into the game junior forward David Browning fired a shot that carried just wide of the goal. The Red and Crimson squads played each other evenly throughout the first half, except for a the lone goal scored by Harvard sophomore forward Andre Akpan — a member of U-20 U.S. National Team.
With less than 23 minutes remaining in the half, Akpan beat junior Cornell goalkeeper Luca Cerretani near the goal and tapped it in for the first goal of the game. The Harvard sophomore repeatedly showed off his ability to create goal-scoring opportunities out of almost nothing.
“He’s the best player in our league,” Scales said. “You have to know where he is. He’s very athletic. We lost track of him a couple times. And that’s what good players do. They step up and get goals in big games, and this was a big game for both teams. The good thing for us is that it’s only one game.”
Akpan, who leads the Crimson in most offensive categories, was limited to four shot attempts, three of which came in the first half. Going into the break, the Red held the shot advantage, 6-3, and finished with a 15-11 advantage.
In the second half, however, Harvard’s star forward didn’t have to do much as his teammates stepped up. Minutes after Cornell’s defense contained a break by Akpan, Harvard freshman Alex Chi got one in the back of the net with a slide in the fifty-seventh minute.
The Red responded when junior defender Kevin Vieira sent a cross to Bouraee, who knew exactly what to do with it, heading the ball in from 15 yards out.
“I just saw the ball deflected into my path and the goalie didn’t react quick enough,” said Bouraee. “But it wasn’t really a matter of excitement [because] we were not playing well. We were down 2-0.”
The Red seemed to have gained some momentum, but any chance at a comeback was diminished when Harvard junior Michael Fucito assisted on classmate John Stamatis’ goal in the sixty-fourth minute. Twenty seconds later, Fucito himself netted the final goal of the game on a breakaway from 45 yards out.
“They scored a nice goal [in the first half] — credit to them — but it just kind of deflated us from that point,” Kuritzky said. “We kept fighting. Yeah, we kept fighting but then they scored another one and it was 2-1 and then we kind of turned off.”
According to Bouraee, Cornell’s offense didn’t take advantage of its possessions.
“We had trouble passing the ball,” he said. “We weren’t able to keep possession. We were running around chasing the ball the whole game. … It can’t just be an individual thing. When we were trying to move up the field as a team, we would lose the ball and just play defense persistently.”
The team had been placed outside its comfort zone before the match even began by Ithaca weather. The players warmed up before the delay, which was called minutes before the scheduled start time, and then returned to warm-ups after waiting inside for over 30 minutes.
“It seemed like we warmed up too much … by halftime, we needed a break,” Bouraee said.
Saturday’s game was frustrating for the Red in several aspects, from pre-game routines to players’ performances.
“[Junior defender] Danny [McKallagat] did okay when he came into the game,” Scales said. “Bouraee got a goal. Kevin Vieira did okay. Other than that, I thought for each player that came on it was kind of a non-descript performance, which you hope that you don’t have those in the Ivy League games, but tonight we did, unfortunately. We’ll have to wait and see if it’s a one-time thing. It’s uncharacteristic of us to give up four goals. We’ll see next week. I think we’re all looking for a response.”