September 12, 2008

M. Soccer Looks to Rebound From Opening Week Losses

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When you fall off of a horse, common wisdom says to get right back on. After two shutout losses to open the season in California last weekend, the men’s soccer team got right on a plane back to Ithaca and is preparing for its next challenge. The Red arrived in Lewisburg, Penn., last night, set to take on host Bucknell tonight and the University of New Hampshire Sunday afternoon in the Days Inn Invitational.
“During [last] weekend, we weren’t communicating as much,” said senior defender Kevin Vieira. “But during practice [head coach Bryan Scales] has been going over film, and we’ve been doing all the right things to get better.”
In contrast to the Red’s rocky season-opening weekend, both Bucknell and New Hampshire have had strong starts.
Bucknell (2-1-1) turned in a title-worthy performance at the Penn St. Classic last weekend — tying 2007 national runner-up Ohio St. in double overtime, 1-1, and following that up with a win over traditional powerhouse Penn St. on its home turf, 2-0.
Though early in the season, New Hampshire (3-0-1) has yet to lose a game in the course of a two-tournament title streak.
The Wildcats’ games, however, have all been low-scoring, decided by two goals or less. This is good news for the Red defense, which gave up five goals one week ago and two on Sunday.
“Anytime you give up seven goals in a weekend, you have to kind of look and see where you are defensively,” Scales said. “I think that that’s probably no different for us. We want to make sure that we can tighten things up in the back.”
After last week’s struggles in the backfield, the Red has focused much of its practice time on defensive schemes in preparing for the second week of play.
“We worked on tightening up the back four,” said sophomore goalkeeper Scott Brody, who started last Sunday’s game against Stanford.
“At practice, we worked at [our] shape and our positioning,” Vieira said, of the Red’s defensive adjustments.
The Red-Wildcat series is even, as the teams split the two games they have played. Cornell pulled out a 1-0 win on Sept. 10, 2006 in Burlington, Vt., the most recent meeting, while the only other matchup was a 3-0 Wildcat win on Oct. 2, 1994.
“We beat UNH in 2006 at the [University of Vermont] tournament,” Scales said. “It was a game that could have gone either way, and we managed to get a goal in.”[img_assist|nid=31642|title=Fancy footwork|desc=Senior defender Dan McKallagat (8) and the rest of the Red defense hope to improve on last weekend, when the Red allowed seven goals.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Compared to that relatively recent experience with the Wildcats, the Bison are a complete mystery — Cornell and Bucknell have not met in over a decade. The Red eked out a 1-0 win at home during the 1997 season. In seven meetings, Bucknell has never defeated Cornell.
The Red’s only relevant scouting so far is related to the venue.
“They’ve got a great new stadium down there,” Scales said, “so it should be a good atmosphere on Friday night.”
Some Red players new to collegiate soccer will get valuable experience on a Friday night under the lights. Freshman defender Jimmy Lannon, for one, will build on positive outings last weekend off the bench on Friday and starting on Sunday.
“We feel like Jimmy Lannon did well enough back there with [senior co-captain Joe Yonga] on Sunday against Stanford to warrant a game this weekend,” Scales said. “We hope that things become solidified over the next couple of weeks.”
“He’s a solid kid,” Scales said of Lannon. “One of the things that he does well [is that] he senses danger well, which is good for a defender. You have to really know who’s around you and who’s going to be the most dangerous guy. And aside from that, I think he’s a very solid individual defender, both in the air and on the ground.”
While opposing east coast teams will get a look at the Red’s new roster members like Lannon this weekend, the invitational has the added significance of offering Cornell a chance to do some scouting of its own — as Penn St., which has already played host to Bucknell, and fourth tournament team Hartwick, are coming up on the Red’s 2008 schedule.