November 3, 2008

M. Soccer Can’t Handle Speedy Tiger Forwards

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Shouts of joy rang out three times at Berman Field on Saturday. Unfortunately for the men’s soccer team, hosting Princeton in an afternoon matchup, it was the visiting players who ran to congratulate each other after each of their goals, as Princeton defeated Cornell, 3-0, in the Red’s second-to-last home matchup of 2008.
Searching for its first win in the Ancient Eight, the Red (1-13, 0-5 Ivy) is still hunting after the Tigers (5-9-1, 2-2-1) snatched an early two-goal lead and added an insurance score in the second half to notch their second Ivy win. Princeton presented a different kind of opponent for Cornell — the Tigers’ team speed was too great an advantage for the Red to overcome.
“They had a lot of speed up top,” said senior co-captain Joe Yonga. “They had good runs and they were getting behind us a lot, so that makes it difficult. We’re used to a lot bigger, more physical guys. These guys were a lot cheekier … and we got exposed because of it.”
The Red got some shots off in the first half — junior forward Matt Bouraee had some nice opportunities working in tandem with freshman forward Pedro Pereira — but the Cornell defense faced an even greater challenge. Princeton’s first two goals were a direct result of its speed and followed almost exactly the same pattern. [img_assist|nid=33229|title=Outpaced|desc=Senior Dana Flanders (11) eyes his options downfield against Penn at Berman Field in a 3-2 loss on Oct. 4.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“[A Princeton player] got behind our outside back and we were in bad positions all over the field,” Yonga said. “But [Princeton is] a good team and they deserve their goals.”
Forward Ben Harms was the Princeton player who got past the Red defense most often on Saturday. The junior got the scoring started in the 27th minute, bringing the ball down the left goal line and quickly cutting in to lace a low shot into the right corner past senior Red goaltender Steve Lesser, who notched four saves on the night.
“[Lesser has] battled back from his injury and given us some solid goalkeeping performances,” said head coach Bryan Scales. “There are just some goals he’s not going to save.”
Less than ten minutes later, Harms brought the ball down the goal line again and passed to sophomore midfielder/forward Brandon Busch waiting in the middle, whose quick strike made it 2-0.
“[In the first two goals, freshman defender] Kyle Parsons got caught tucked in too far, the ball was played over his head, and they ended up getting around the flanks on the right side,” Scales said. “Kyle understands that. He’s a freshman. He’s learning the ropes, [but] he’s had a pretty solid season. He’s played a lot of minutes. Unfortunately, those two mistakes were difficult to bounce back from.”
“Dealing with Harms [and the other forwards],” Scales added, “they were dangerous and they were fast, and that caused us some problems. We got caught a couple times for speed, and diving in in bad spots. And the way that our season has gone, we get punished for making some of those mistakes in the back.”
Freshman midfielder Antoine Hoppenot was also especially active for the Tiger offense, buzzing around the Cornell zone for all 90 minutes and taking the ball in several times in the first ten minutes of the second half. The Red got lucky the first time when his shot went just wide, but senior defender Dana Flanders and junior midfielder Brian Donovan caught up and were able to wrestle the ball away on Hoppenot’s second break.
“I think the first half we were pretty flat,” Yonga said. “We didn’t act like we wanted it. In the second half we tried to make some adjustments and change the intensity, but by that time it was really too late. We need to come with intensity and anger from Minute 1 to Minute 90, and we didn’t today and it showed.”
The Tigers kept generating chances up until the last minute — mostly on account of the thing that the Red had no answer for — Princeton’s speed.
“We can’t make our guys faster,” Scales said. “We just have to be aware, and when pressure is broken and they’re able to serve the ball, you have to be able to drop quickly and really concede a lot of space so that you give yourself a cushion to deal with that speed. For the most part, I thought Dana and Joe matched up well with it. [But] speed kills, there’s no doubt about it.”
The early goals deflated the Red, however, because the team has been dealing all season with its own frustrating ineffectiveness on offense.
“The third goal essentially killed the game off,” Scales said, “but we continued to play. We continued to work. That’s all we can do, is continue to try to represent ourselves, our families, the University and the jersey as it needs to be.”