October 6, 2008

M. Soccer Sees Win Slip Away in Last 20 Minutes

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The men’s soccer team squared off against Penn on Saturday with the hopes of starting off its Ivy League schedule with a victory. Ten minutes into the second half, it seemed like Cornell was on its way to a win, as freshman forward Pedro Pereira scored his first-ever collegiate goal to put the Red up, 2-1.
However, two goals by Penn senior Omid Shokoufandeh with less than 20 minutes remaining in the game uprooted a potential triumph for the host Red (1-7, 0-1 Ivy), as the Quakers (7-0-3, 1-0) rallied and held on to a 3-2 edge.
[img_assist|nid=32455|title=Golllllllllllllllllll!|desc=Down one goal to Penn, sophomore midfielder Scott Caldwell (26) evens the score late in the first half after receiving a cross from senior Dan McKallagat.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Penn took the early lead in the game when sophomore midfielder Jason Gorskie headed home a corner kick 20 minutes into the contest against host Cornell.
The Penn lead did not last long, however. Seventeen minutes after Gorskie’s go-ahead play, Cornell senior Dan McKallagat brought the ball up the field and found sophomore midfielder Scott Caldwell. Caldwell received McKallagat’s cross and quickly buried a strike just inside the far post to tie the game at one goal apiece.
The match went into the half all square, but Pereira’s strike off of his left foot on a daring attacking play gave Cornell the 2-1 lead. Pereira explained that he was very excited to score his first NCAA goal in such an important situation.
“It’s nice because it gets the pressure out of your system,” Pereira said. “After I scored the goal, I started playing loose — just played my game, started having fun and just helping my team as much as I could. It really does take the pressure off and it does help the team obviously, so that’s really important. It was really cool to score my first goal.”
Shokoufandeh’s equalizer came in the game’s 71st minute, as he took a pass from Christian Barreiro and was able to beat the outstretched Cornell goaltender Scott Brody.
Just nine minutes later, Shokoufandeh thumped a devastating blow to the Red, as he notched his second goal of the game and fifth of the season. On this game-deciding play, the senior was able to find a loose ball that squirted to the edge of the Cornell six-yard box. Shokoufandeh made no mistake with his surprise discovery and found the back of the net to give his team the victory.
Pereira noted that the loss was particularly frustrating because the Red played some of its best soccer of the season in this game.
“We were kind of unlucky, which is part of the game,” Pereira said. “Offensively, we had so many more opportunities in this game than in other games. [Junior forward] Matt Bouraee, he got lots of crosses for us and we had lots of dangerous headers, but they just didn’t work out for us. Defensively, we were just unlucky.”
With the win, Penn extends its unbeaten streak to 10 games to start the year. Penn’s defense had been dominant through the season so far, coming into this game having allowed only four goals, but the Red offense gave it a challenge on Saturday.
The Cornell offense had high expectations coming into the year but had faltered in the season’s first stretch of games. It finally broke through on Saturday — not only scoring twice but creating many more chances throughout the game.
“We showed a lot of improvement offensively,” Pereira said. “We were able to score on them and they have a pretty tight defense. I think it’s all about team chemistry. We had a lot of new guys playing new positions, and it just takes time to get used [to it]. We are getting used to it now and I am sure that we are going to do better and score more goals. Sometime soon the luck will be on our side and we will win some games.”
After this emotional loss, the Red can’t afford to dwell on the disappointment. The squad will now attempt to focus on the positives that can be drawn from the Penn match.
“We faced Penn and we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to play with Penn,” Pereira said. “In my opinion, we outplayed them. On the ball, we had more ball possession and we shot more. I think we were more dangerous than them. That gave us confidence. Independent of winning or losing the game, now we know we can play these teams and we know that we have a good chance of beating them. It’s just going to make us work hard during the week so that we can beat Harvard next weekend.”