October 10, 2008

Red Competes With Nothing to Lose

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After last week’s disappointing loss to Penn in which the Red’s 2-1 second half lead collapsed in heartbreaking fashion, the men’s soccer team (1-7, 0-1 Ivy) is eager to get back out on the field tomorrow afternoon game against Harvard (4-3, 1-0).
The Red will travel to Cambridge, Mass., to face off against a Crimson team that defeated the Red in Ithaca last year in a 4-1 blowout. However, head coach Bryan Scales does not believe that his team feels any added pressure to exact revenge for last year’s loss.
“I think our team is a little better at this stage of the game [than last year],” he said. “Last year’s game shouldn’t have any influence on this game.”[img_assist|nid=32594|title=Winding up|desc=Senior co-captain and attacker Joe Yonga (20) is one of three Red players who have scored their first career goals this season.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Harvard has been noted for its balanced style of play on both offense and defense. The Crimson boasts multiple scoring threats, but senior midfielder Michael Fucito headlines the attack. Prior to the start of the 2008 campaign, Fucito received various Preseason All-American honors from outlets such as Soccer America and College Soccer News. In the Crimson’s seven games thus far, team captain Fucito has lived up to the hype — racking up five goals and 11 points overall. Additionally, junior forward Andre Akpan has added three goals and seven points for the Crimson.
In last year’s game between these two sides, Akpan and Fucito both scored to help Harvard to victory. The Red knows that, in order to keep the game tight against Harvard, it will have to limit the opportunities for Harvard’s offensive stars. That being said, Scales will be careful not to sacrifice the Red’s own style of play.
“We certainly understand firsthand what guys like Andre Akpan, Mike Fucito and those types of guys are capable of,” Scales said. “We know that [Fucito] is dangerous, but I don’t think that we are at the stage where we will alter everything that we try to do to adjust to Mike [Fucito] and/or Andre [Akpan]. They are both dangerous, they both need to be looked after, but we are just going to go out and play.”
Scales added that his players came away from last weekend’s loss feeling confident and optimistic for their future games, despite Penn’s late comeback. According to Scales, this upbeat attitude has resulted in some very constructive and encouraging practices for the squad during the last week.
“I think that we felt as though last weekend was a pretty good performance for us, knowing that when you give up three goals in a game that is a little bit of a problem,” he said. “Overall, the guys felt that like that was a game that we should have won and so we have had a very good week of training, a very positive week of training.”
This game will be the second conference matchup for both of these teams. Harvard was victorious in its first Ancient Eight battle, as it defeated Yale by a score of 1-0 in Cambridge last weekend.
Cornell’s own offense found some momentum in the Penn game and hopes to continue that attacking creativity into the rest of the season’s games. Three Red players — senior co-captain Joe Yonga, sophomore midfielder Scott Caldwell and freshman forward Pedro Pereira — have scored the first goals of their respective NCAA careers this season. These three players, in addition to junior forward Matt Bouraee, are the only Red players to have found the back of the net this season.
Scales was happy with his team’s overall performance last weekend and is looking for continued improvement on Saturday. He and his coaching staff have not been doing anything out of the ordinary in practice this week, just focusing on the Red’s own chemistry and style of play to prepare for Saturday’s contest.
“We are just doing our regular routine to be honest,” Scales said. “A lot of stuff on the ball, working on some team shape issues and making sure that we take care of the guys that have not played a lot of games and have not played a lot of minutes too. We don’t want them to fall too far behind the rest of the group.”
With the Red now confident after a strong showing last weekend and Harvard coming in off of its victory over Yale, Scales is expecting a hard-fought bout tomorrow.
“They are a dangerous team,” explained Scales. “They are athletic up top, and they can get the ball to those two guys. Harvard has a nice surface to play on, and I expect it to be a pretty good game. Both teams are feeling good about themselves, and we certainly feel as though we have a great chance to win the game.”