September 15, 2008

Men’s Soccer Offense Sees Spark in Losses

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The men’s soccer team has reached a turning point. While the Red is winless after two weeks of play — dropping its weekend matchups with Bucknell Friday night, 3-0, and New Hampshire yesterday afternoon, 2-1 — the struggling offense showed signs of life in controlling the first halves of both contests.
“It’s difficult to understand if you weren’t there,” said junior defender Brian Donovan. “Especially in the second game [of the weekend], we kept the ball for long periods of time but we were never able to make that final pass and put the ball in the net. We were making them run and possessing the ball … sometimes for six minutes at a time.”
Tournament host Bucknell (3-1-2) won the invitational by goals allowed despite New Hampshire (4-0-2) remaining undefeated on the year.
Yesterday, Cornell outshot New Hampshire, 16-7, and senior co-captain Joe Yonga netted the Red’s first goal of the season with 88th minute. The defender’s crunch-time score came off a corner kick by fellow senior defender Kevin Vieira.
“They didn’t mark us … and Joe was able to get free,” said junior midfielder J.J. Bain, who was on the field for the goal and for the ensuing celebration. “It felt fantastic [that the team got its first goal].”
Both Wildcat goals were also the result of corners, the first less than five minutes into the game and the second in the 67th minute. A possible reason for the three corner-kick tallies is yesterday’s especially sweltering weather.[img_assist|nid=31712|title=He’s the man|desc=With his 88th minute goal against the University of New Hampshire yesterday afternoon, senior co-captain Joe Yonga (20) has accounted for all of the Red’s offense in the 2008 season. The Red is winless so far.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“It’s hot this time of year, and when it’s hot you get tired quicker,” Bain said.
And though the weather tested both teams’ conditioning, the Red should have won the matchup anyway, according to Donovan.
“[New Hampshire] was not deep,” he said. “They didn’t sub a whole lot. So they were tired, but we didn’t take advantage of it.”
“We were getting a little more of an identity as a team [over the weekend],” Bain said, “getting mental toughness and being able to play in any conditions we’re faced with.”
A key aspect of that mental toughness has been focusing on beginning and ending well, which has been one of the squad’s biggest problems.
“We’ve been talking about how the first five minutes and the last five minutes are extremely important, and we … lost concentration [at times],” Bain said.
“We’ve been giving up goals at the beginning of halves and [at the beginning of] games recently,” Donovan agreed. “Coach said we couldn’t give up early goals, which of] games recently,” Donovan agreed. “Coach said we couldn’t give up early goals, which is exactly what happened against UNH, ironically.”
Despite allowing a goal by New Hampshire’s Mike McKee within the first five minutes, Cornell outplayed New Hampshire in the first 20 minutes, echoing its performance on Friday, when the Red and the Bison were even going into the intermission. And after giving up seven goals last weekend, the Red had been working to tighten up the defense for.
“We were really taking it to them in the first half,” Bain said. “We gave up five goals [this weekend], but a lot of them weren’t the same types of goals as last week. … [The defense this week was] more organized and more together overall.”
Though the Red held off the Bison for the first half, the home team scored the first of three goals three minutes into the second.
Giving up a goal early in the second half was a “mental killer,” according to Donovan.
“I remember J.J. [Bain] saying on the bus, ‘I feel like we’re on the edge right now,’” Donovan added. “Possession isn’t our problem. … We just need to get a little more hungry around the box.”