September 29, 2008

Men’s Soccer Drops One-Run Ivy League Tuneup at Home

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Though the men’s soccer team lost Friday at Berman Field, 1-0, this was the real home opener for the Red.
The contest between Cornell (1-6) and in-state rival Binghamton (5-1-3) — decided by only one goal and featuring strong performances on both ends of the field — was the type of game the Red wished it had as its home opener two weeks ago, when visiting Albany crushed a demoralized Cornell, 4-0.
It came at the perfect time, as the Red will open Ivy play this coming weekend.
[img_assist|nid=32169|title=Mine|desc=Scott Brody battled with his Bearcat counterpart.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The players emphasized the clear differences between the two home outings.
“We played better offensively, even though we didn’t score,” said junior forward J.J. Bain. “Our defense was more organized for the most part, against a team that put us under a lot more pressure than that last home game. I just think the competitiveness was better.”
“I think we played with a lot more pride,” added sophomore midfielder Scott Caldwell. “We played for each other, the guy next to us. We were all going harder on tackles and everything. I think we wanted to prove to our fans [that we are better than that home opener showed], so we wanted to go hard.”
The crowd, which was energized by the Homecoming festivities, got to see several scoring opportunities coming early in the match, especially from a home team that started strong right out of the gate.
“We got really good chances in the first half and didn’t score,” Bain said.
After holding the Bearcats to a scoreless first half, a defensive miscommunication in the second led to the first and only score of the night. As sophomore goalkeeper Scott Brody came out of the goal to intercept the ball in mid-air, it ricocheted off another Cornell body to Binghamton’s Cameron Keith, allowing him to send the ball into the wide-open net.
Two minutes after that disheartening play, Keith had the ball on a breakaway and shot from six yards out, but Brody deflected it and then grabbed the ball when Keith got the rebound and shot again.
“They’re a big, physical team and played like we expected,” Caldwell said. “They’re just a bunch of big guys. They play good soccer, but their first goal is looking long and getting it down in our back. … I think they play that style of soccer well.”
The second half complemented that Bearcat style — it was a battle of the long ball with the goalkeepers basically exchanging possession. Binghamton goalie Jason Stenta, who tallied two saves on the night, held on for the shutout.
“The game really stretched out and turned into almost a ping pong match,” said head coach Bryan Scales, “which is going to happen when you’re down a goal and kind of rushing and playing with some urgency.”
Despite the goal, however, Cornell’s defense held throughout the match, and Scales gave much of the credit for that to a pair of seniors on the back line: Dana Flanders and co-captain Joe Yonga. Yonga anchors the defense but has also been the Red’s most potent threat on offense this year with two goals.
“The back four did very well,” Scales said. “Dana and Joe have made a great partnership back there. Dana, I thought he was superb. He was heading balls, he was all over the place and allowed Joe to get forward a little more, especially towards the end of the game.”
Yonga had his work cut out for him on the attack, as fellow senior co-captain David Browning had to be helped off the field less than halfway through the first. The forward had just recently recovered from an injury that kept him out for much of last season.
Several injuries to veterans have allowed Red rookies to get experience in the non-conference matchups. Freshmen defenders Jimmy Lannon and Kyle Parsons started on defense Friday, while Pedro Pereira tallied two shots coming off the bench.
The forward from Brazil displayed some fancy footwork with the ball, including a turnaround move early in the second period that faked out two Bearcats defenders and got a roar of approval from the crowd.
“We’ve got a bunch of young guys on our team playing in key spots,” Scales said. “The decision-making is not good sometimes. They can get experience in these games. That’s how they get to make better decisions. … [But the freshmen have been doing well and have] been playing a lot of minutes. Pedro tonight especially got in and I thought made a pretty good impact.”
With just over six minutes remaining before the intermission and with the memory of Browning’s injury still fresh, Parsons also went down, writhing in pain on the ground as play continued around him. The freshman, however, was able to reenter the game later.
“Kyle kind of went over on his ankle, and Chris Scarlata our trainer worked on it and was able to get him back and ready to go,” Scales said.
To Scales, Friday’s game was “light years apart” from the Red’s disastrous last home game against Albany.
“I think for anybody that watched that game, I think they could figure that out,” he said. “We generated some great opportunities that we didn’t connect on, we let ourselves down in that department. But as far as the overall approach to the game, the commitment in the game, the organization, the communication and the soccer, I thought it was probably our best performance of the year. So the disappointment is in the result, but the good part is that we feel we’re moving forward.”