October 8, 2008

M. Soccer Expecting Pereira, Parsons to Fill Gaps in Lineup

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[img_assist|nid=32517|title=Ball control|desc=Freshman defender Kyle Parsons (18) has adjusted to the east coast’s more physical style of soccer.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Both tall and lanky at around 6-0, their soccer backgrounds are based on technique more than physical play. Other than their jobs on the field — Pereira plays forward and Parsons is a defender — the roommates do almost everything together, with the routine of soccer and homework interrupted mainly with talk about… soccer.
“Of the guys on team, [Kyle is one of] the guys who really know soccer, [who know it] really, really well, everything about soccer, like pro soccer and everything,” Pereira said. “He loves the game a lot. So he’s always giving me tips, we’re always talking about the game.”
“Back home I watched all the soccer channels,” said Parsons, the self-admitted Arsenal fan.
However, neither athletics nor academics, or even having less time to watch soccer, is the biggest adjustment that both freshmen have had to make — an adjustment that the roommates have continued to bond over.
“[Kyle is] from Arizona, so it’s kind of a hard deal for him to get used to too,” Pereira said with a slight shiver.
“It hasn’t been too bad so far,” Parsons added, “but I’m sure the worst is coming.”
It’s the temperature drop from home and the coming Ithaca winter that they are dreading.
“You may want to ask them how they feel in December,” said head coach Bryan Scales. “They’re both from sunny climates. … This [weather] is fine for the right now, but they’ll be in woolly hats in a few weeks.”
In the present Ithaca weather, however, both rookies have been thriving.
Coming off the bench for the most part, Pereira started Saturday’s Ivy opener against Penn and scored his first collegiate goal early in the second half — giving the Red a 2-1 lead in its eventual 3-2 loss at home.
The would-be game-winner, a 25-yard strike off of Pereira’s left foot after he made his way in from the right side, showcased the Brazilian forward’s terrific ball control skills that have drawn cheers from spectators whenever he steps on Berman Field.
“Pedro [is] a special attacking player,” Scales said. “He’s very comfortable on the ball. You can see when you watch him play how comfortable he is with the ball at his feet. And that’s just a by-product of his upbringing and the environment that he grew up in.”
“Pedro has been kind of coming on of late,” Scales added, “but Kyle’s been in there pretty much since Day 1. He’s played a lot of minutes.”
Parsons, on the other hand, has been a regular starter since the Red’s loss to the University of New Hampshire on Sept. 14, and has gotten in the game for all eight matches.
The playing time was a pleasant surprise for Parsons, who had trouble with the Red’s style of soccer.
“Soccer on the west coast is really technical, and the east coast is really physical,” he said. “I had a really hard time adjusting to that at first. In the first few days of preseason, I wasn’t playing well. I didn’t think I’d be getting any minutes at all.”
Parsons has played since the age of five and when he was older he traveled an hour and a half every week from his small hometown to practice for his club team. The Benson, Ariz. native moved up quickly; he was on the Arizona state Olympic Development Program team from 2003-2007 and made it to the national championship game in 2007.
Also in that year, he got the chance to travel with the regional team to Italy, where the squad played pro youth teams from Italy, Brazil and other soccer-crazed countries in Europe and South America.
To further prepare for NCAA-level soccer, Parsons played over the summer on a U-23 team in Arizona that had several college players. But he still didn’t know what to expect after completing the cross-country trek to Ithaca.
Coming from a completely different country, Pereira could identify with Parsons’s problem.
Pereira grew up watching some of the greatest soccer in the world at legendary Maracanã Stadium — cheering on his hometown team, the popular Flamengo. As an all-star of his league playing for the British School of Rio de Janeiro, the forward still struggled with the transition to a completely different style of soccer.
“I’ve been playing soccer for so long,” Pereira said. “When I was growing up, people play soccer in the streets in Brazil. So I don’t even remember [when I first started playing soccer]. … [But] I’m still getting used to [American soccer]. The guys here are pretty physical and strong and they run a lot, so even if you’re really technical, you don’t get the chance because the guy makes it up with speed and strength and power. Hopefully with training and practicing and working out, I’ll [get better].”
By comparison, it was easy to adjust to living in America, especially with the Brazilian’s best friend from high school also coming to Cornell and a strong support network in his teammates and roommate.
“They’re young, so they make some mistakes,” Scales said. “[But] that’s just decision-making when you come down to it, getting the experience to know when and where to try stuff. Obviously Pedro is kind of given free rein to try and pull off whatever he wants to in the attacking third of the field. Kyle has to be a lot more careful because he’s in the back third, and when he makes a mistake we’re in trouble.”
It’s a good thing for Cornell, however, that these rookies have been able to transition relatively smoothly. The Red (1-7) has its work cut out for it.
“We knew coming in that we’d have some holes to fill,” Scales said, “and they’ve been able to fill them.”
With the graduation of two players in particular — first team All-Ivy attacking midfielder Brian Kuritzky ’08 and defensive mainstay Kyle Lynch ’08 — the Red has seen some gaps in its game this year on both offense and defense. It may be convenient that Pereira and Parsons arrived on the Hill just as those veterans left, but the freshmen still have some work to do.
“I don’t think you can replace those guys [Kuritzky and Lynch], certainly not right away,” Scales said when asked if Pereira and Parsons are taking on their roles. “I think [the two freshmen] have the potential to fill those shoes, but they’ve played, what? Eight or nine Division I college soccer games. So they haven’t arrived on the scene yet.”
However, he did see a few similarities between the two generations beyond name or position.
“I think that you can compare Pedro and Brian Kuritzky because they both have imagination in their game,” Scales said. “They both can pull off some things that maybe other players can’t pull off.”
“If you want to compare both Kyles,” Scales added, “Kyle Lynch was a destroying center back and Kyle Parsons reads the game very well, but I think they’re two different type of athletes. They [do] share the first name. Kyle Parsons has the potential, if he continues to develop, [to] fill a big role for us going forward. So we’ll see, the ball’s in his court to continue to improve.”
The current Kyle is a more technical defender but still has just as much, if not more, of an attacking mindset as Lynch. The former co-captain occasionally stepped into the role of goal-scorer in his time at Berman Field.
“Kyle [Parsons] has good feet, he’s a good passer and we encouraged him to go forward more on the attack Saturday against Penn,” Scales said of his “very steady” young defender.
Playing mainly on defense in high school, Parsons still scored 23 goals with 13 assists. The versatile rookie has also responded well to challenges in his collegiate career so far — he has been lining up on the left side even though he is right-footed and playing through a sprained ankle for several weeks now.
“I can hold my own,” Parsons said of his attacking style based on strong technique. “I’m a technical defender, but I’m no Pedro on the ball.”