Cornell men’s soccer secured a win on Friday against St. Francis (5-4) after being down 1-0 at halftime. Two goals from freshman midfielder Tommy Hansan catapulted the Red to victory in what was a very physical and emotional game.
Despite the victory, head coach John Smith said that Cornell (3-3-1, 0-0 Ivy) was not playing to its potential in the first half of the game.
“We were playing like we were on the road in the first half,” Smith said. “We came out flat and were under pressure, but in the second half we showed that we can be aggressive.”
Smith was adamant that the slow start was his fault, and proceeded to change up the team’s formation at halftime, which provided a boost to offensive pressure.
“I put the first half on my shoulders,” Smith said. “In scouting [St. Francis] I thought it would have been good to come out with a 4-1-4-1, but instead that formation put us under pressure.”
Smith, who said he had “some choice words” for his team at halftime, shifted the formation to a 4-4-2, with the left back playing high up the pitch and contributing in attack.
Also integral for the Red was Smith’s decision to rely on Tommy Hansan and junior forward Walter Prince for offensive pressure. Prince came on in the second and provided energy, frequently causing havoc for the St. Francis (5-4) backline, which struggled to deal with his speed and athleticism.
“My mindset is always the same when I come on,” Prince said. “I knew the team needed some energy and I’m a pretty big body so I can shake up the center backs a bit.”
Both Prince and Hansan pressed the defense from the start of the second. Hansan eventually broke through the back line in what was a foot race with the St. Francis goalie for the ball. Just as the goalie dove to block the shot, Hansan lifted the ball over his outstretched arms and into the corner of the net.
It was a shot that came off of a hefty touch, yet Hansan was still able to get to the ball.
“They flooded one side of the back line and I saw that and went to the other side,” Hansan said. “Someone flicked the ball to me and I took a pretty good touch forward and was able to slide it past the goalie.”
Hansan’s first goal tied the game, but his second just a few minutes later gave the Red the lead and the ultimate game-winner.
Cornell scored off of a throw that was initially believed to have been scored by Prince, but the ball actually hit off of Prince’s shoulder and was then tapped in by Hansan.
“The ball was bouncing around and we work on those situations in practice where you just have to attack it,” Hansan said. “There were a lot of touches on the ball before it came to me and then I was able to head it in.”
Hansan, who represents the young core of talent on the Cornell team, said the formation shift was a key decision in the game.
“Our two forwards who came on in the second half were attacking right away,” Hansan said. “We were able to get the ball off of them and it created a lot of chances in the second half.”
The game concluded with some controversy as tempers were running high in the closing minutes, with a St. Francis player receiving a red card for fighting after skirmish on the last corner of the game.
“Nobody likes to lose,” Smith said. “Some people accept losses in different ways and I think one or two of their players accepted it in an unfortunate manner.”
The Red will turn their attention toward Binghamton on Monday, followed by the team’s first Ivy game on Saturday against Penn.