October 15, 2008

Men See Improvement from Last Year's Loss

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The more things change, the more they stay the same for the men’s soccer team. The squad fell to Harvard on Saturday, 2-0, at Ohiri Field in Cambridge, Mass. A year ago, the Red gave up three goals within an eight-minute span to fall to the Crimson, 4-1, on Oct. 6, 2007.
This time around, despite the graduation of much of last year’s Cornell starting lineup, the matchup was more competitive.
“A loss is a loss, and you can only be so positive about it,” said senior defender Dan McKallagat. “But we were much more competitive [with Harvard] this year than last year. Unlike last year, where really we were on our heels for the whole 90 minutes, there were stretches [on Saturday] where we looked like the better team … where we were able to control the ball.”
Cornell’s loss, like last year’s, leaves the Red (1-8, 0-2 Ivy) winless in Ivy play. Also recalling 2007, the Crimson (5-3, 2-0) built on a 1-0 halftime lead on Saturday and got goals from senior midfielders Michael Fucito and John Stamatis.
“The two goals weren’t the result of Harvard possessing the ball or keeping or moving it in any spectacular way,” McKallagat said. “They were just breaks [that went Harvard’s way].”
Fucito got the Crimson on the board in the 26th minute with a left-footed kick from 25 yards out that “kind of floated over [sophomore netminder Scott Brody] into the corner of the net,” as head coach Bryan Scales described the play.
McKallagat thought that the shot was not even intentional, however, but just a lucky stroke for Fucito and Harvard.
“A player got the ball wide, and it really looked like he mishit it,” McKallagat said. “[Fucito] was just trying to cross it, and he hit it closer in than he meant to and got lucky. At that point in the first half, the game was pretty even.”
The home team capitalized on the Red’s shaken confidence and struck again less than two minutes into the second half.
“It was the restart that we didn’t deal with,” Scales said. “We keep that game 1-0 [after halftime], and we’re still in it.”
After a long throw-in early in the second half, the Red wasn’t able to clear the ball and Stamatis cut through the traffic to head it past Brody.
“There were a lot of bodies in the box,” McKallagat said. “It just squirted into the goal.”
On the other side of the field, Cornell’s offensive struggles continued, as the Red failed to get on the board at all for the sixth time this season. McKallagat had two shots on goal and was the only Cornell player to register more than one. Harvard’s freshman goalkeeper Austin Harms registered six saves in the contest.
“Harvard’s definitely one of the better teams in the league,” McKallagat said. “We matched up with them pretty well. The difference-maker was probably that they have a couple of players who were really dynamic on the ball.”
That was the difference between the two teams on Saturday, according to Scales.
“We weren’t particularly good on the ball [against Harvard],” he said. “We’re a team that has to pass well and make our connections. We’re not a big, strong, athletic team that can overpower other teams, so we have to beat them in other ways.”