Adam Riesenfeld | Sun Contributor

Despite a winless two-game start, head coach John Smith said he's proud of his team's first match-ups.

September 6, 2016

Sloppy Play Late in Game Dooms Strong Start for Cornell Men’s Soccer

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With winds gusting up to 25 miles per hour, the Cornell men’s soccer team (0-1-1) took on UConn (3-1-0) for its first away game of the season. After a tough, scoreless 66 minutes for both sides, UConn was finally able to break free, and ultimately defeated the Red, 2-0.

The Huskies’ first goal came in the 67th minute after a free kick chance. Junior goalkeeper Mitchell Meyer saved the initial free kick shot from 18 feet out, but UConn defender Andrew Geres was able to corral the rebound and score off the chance.

The Huskies’ second goal came in the 72nd minute when midfielder Nicholas Zuniga scored from within the box. The Huskies finished the game out-shooting the Red, 13-2. Members of the team credit this to the talent on the UConn team, but also cited the inability of the Red to finish its chances.

“UConn had some players that were very skilled individually, but [they] did not gel well as a team,” said junior defender Spencer Kopko, a transfer from Syracuse. “The only difference between Cornell and UConn was that we had two momentary lapses in defensive judgment and they were able to convert these mistakes into goals.”

Kopko praised what he saw out of his teammates, calling the energy and effort “outstanding all the way until the final whistle.”

“UConn’s goals were not a result of them connecting 20 brilliant passes and slotting the ball into the top corner,” Kopko said. “They were sloppy goals where the defense had failed to clear the ball and the UConn strikers took advantage of this.”

Meyer echoed these sentiments, also pointing out that scoring opportunities were there for the Red, but the team could not convert on the chances.

“I think that stat is a byproduct of some misplaced crosses and blocked shots,” Meyer said. “We had a good amount of half-chances that could have turned into shots but broke down for one reason or another. Credit to UConn though, they were well organized and defended well.”

Despite the loss, players and coaches said they are optimistic about the season ahead.

“I was really proud of the team tonight,” said first year head coach John Smith. “I thought we played especially well defensively through the first 65 minutes of the game against one of the top teams in the country, and if we can continue to do that we will be fine as the season progresses.”

Smith continued, saying that the first 66 minutes of gameplay are a positive for the season ahead.

“I’m a positive guy, and I’m also realistic about my expectations,” Smith said. “But I know if we learn to string together 90- to 110-minute performances like the first 65 minutes tonight, there’s a pretty cool story waiting to unfold for us this season.”

Kopko also said he believes that the bright spots of the game are better indicators of the season ahead than the negatives.

“Cornell fans should keep in mind that this team has incredible potential,” Kopko said. “Under the guidance of Coach Smith we have the ability to compete with the top teams in the country, as evidenced by the first 70 minutes of the game against 12th-ranked UConn.”

With Ivy games kicking off at the beginning of October, the team will be looking to hit its stride as the crucial in-conference games begin.

“The game demonstrated that we are well on our way to becoming a cohesive team and that the future is bright for the rest of the season,” Kopko said.

The Red will be on the road again to take on George Mason on Sept. 9 in Fairfax, Virginia.