October 27, 2008

M. Soccer Loses to Brown Away, Questions Referees’ ‘Baffling’ Calls

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Having struggled through a frustrating 2008 season, the men’s soccer team was looking for some providence of its own as the team traveled to Providence, R.I., this weekend to face perennial Ivy contender Brown. Instead of guidance or a change of luck, the Red (1-12, 0-4 Ivy) encountered the Bears (9-4-1, 3-1) at full force in an arena where the Bears have been the most successful — the team is 5-1 at home this year. Brown eventually overpowered Cornell Saturday night, 2-0.
“[Brown is] athletic, of course, they always are,” said senior defender Kevin Vieira. “[On Saturday] they took more advantage of their opportunities. … We were really attacking, and we finally did put away one of our opportunities, but it was [called offsides].”
Cornell’s disallowed goal came in the last couple of minutes, when senior co-captain Joe Yonga was able to find a loose ball and send it past Brown keeper Paul Grandstrand. The goal was called off, however, because of an offsides call, and Grandstrand (3-3) tallied his third shutout of the season.
“Some of the players didn’t think it was offsides,” Vieira said, “but as players we can’t really worry about [calls].”
Generally, the Red did not dispute that last-minute call, but many of the other decisions by the officials Saturday night seemed questionable to the visiting team.
Alternately calling those decisions “suspect,” “baffling” and “frustrating,” Scales thought that the referees were intimidated by the atmosphere at Brown.
“I don’t complain about referees and especially not in a public forum,” Scales added, “but I don’t think our guys were ever able to determine what was a foul and what wasn’t a foul. We didn’t get a lot of fouls [called on our behalf], and [Brown] ended up getting a number of good free kicks around the box. … I was proud of the way our guys kept their composure in the face of some dubious calls by officials.”
Discounting the influence of the refs, the matchup was David and Goliath from the start. Last year’s Ivy League champion, Brown has beaten Cornell every year since the teams tied in 2001.
“They are more athletic than we are,” Scales said. “And we know Brown’s pedigree. On the night, we were in a good spot to spring an upset. The guys were ready.”
The Bears were prepared, as well, getting on the board in the 35th minute. Vieira had moved to block the Brown shot, and the ball deflected off his foot — up and over senior goalkeeper Steve Lesser, “who was in a good spot to save it,” according to Scales.
“I was isolated with it two-on-one, and [the Brown player] played it wide, he kicked [the ball] hard and it ricocheted off my foot,” Vieira said. “Steve was already going one way for the cross.”
Down 1-0 after halftime, the Red was emphasizing the attack. Suddenly, the Bears had the ball at the Cornell end line. When the Cornell defense went out to cover Jon Okafor, the Red lost track of Brown’s Iain Eldredge, who was left open.
“We had two or three guys go up to confront him,” Scales said,” plus Steven Lesser [in goal] covering the near post, and they popped it to the top of the box. No one was marking up. … That was a tough goal to give up.”
Although the Cornell squad did not conquer Goliath in Providence over the weekend, the Red is not giving up.
“You make your own breaks in this business,” Scales said. “At some point, if we continue to work as hard as we’re working, we’ll get a break — a goal when we need it or a good call that goes our way.”