Cornell kicked off its season against perennial Big Ten powerhouses Michigan and Michigan State over the weekend, taking down the Spartans in the second game for an early-season upset.
In the Red’s Friday match in Ann Arbor, the team opened its year with a defeat at the hands of the Wolverines.
Cornell looked convincing early, playing at a fast pace and stringing together crisp passes. However, Michigan capitalized on a moment of individual brilliance in the 33rd minute when MAC Hermann watch list honoree Jack Hallahan delivered a backheel flick pass out wide that set up a goal to put the Wolverines up, 1-0.
Despite its early confidence and attacking pressure, the Red lost its offensive momentum in the second half. Junior forward Charles Touche, last season’s Ivy League leader in goals scored, struggled to make an impact and was frustrated by the Michigan defense.
The current got tougher in the 47th minute, as a Michigan free-kick delivered a ball into the box that was hit first time by Wolverine defender Jackson Ragen. His shot just crossed the goal line despite seemingly being cleared off the line by Cornell defense. The Red immediately protested the goal but the ruling stood.
Frustrations continued for the Red, as in the 51st minute senior midfielder John Scearce slide tackled Hallahan from behind and received a yellow card. Cornell ended with 19 fouls committed on the day.
Cornell’s offense was canned by Michigan’s defense, which made strong tackles, won headers, and blocked shots.
The Red was still looking to score late, but one too many touches by sophomore forward Emeka Eneli led to a defensive clearance that directly set up a Michigan breakaway goal. The final score was 3-0, Michigan.
Fresh off that loss to Michigan, the Red looked to regain confidence against an injury-riddled Michigan State on Sunday.
The Red was dominant in the first half. The Cornell defensive shape looked strong and in-sync, with sophomore defender Tate Keir and freshman defender Connor Drought doing great work shutting down the speedy Spartan forwards. The game had no shortage of intensity as five Cornell players picked up yellow cards.
The Red also showed early prowess in its attack. Senior forward George Pedlow caused problems for the MSU defense and nearly scored a chip goal 15 minutes into the game. The Cornell midfield took advantage of Michigan State’s depleted first eleven and did well to dominate possession. A long-distance strike by Scearce forced a fingertip save by the Michigan State goalkeeper to keep the first half scoreless.
The Red continued to mount attacking pressure in the second half. In the 52nd minute, junior midfielder Harry Fuller finally broke the deadlock, scoring a wonder goal off a Cornell corner kick as his curling strike went off the crossbar and in. The combination of Fuller and Scearce in midfield caused havoc for the Spartan defense on the day.
Cornell looked to be in control but was continuously susceptible to the quality of its nationally ranked opponents. With 30 to play, intricate passing by Michigan State around the Cornell 18-yard box set up an equalizing goal. Cornell was unfazed and continued attacking pressure.
The Red nearly stole the game in the dying seconds of regulation as freshman midfielder Brandon Morales, who saw good minutes throughout the day, had a shot that hit the post.
The teams went into overtime tied 1-1, each side growing more confident in its attacks. Both sides traded chances in the first five minutes, with the game looking like it could end in either team’s favor.
Finally, with four minutes left in overtime, freshman defender Will Citron capitalized on a loose ball in the box and scored the game-winning goal to give Cornell a dramatic 2-1 win. On Monday, Citron was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his clutch performance.
The Red is now 1-1 on the season and will play five more out-of-conference matches before Ivy League play commences in October.
Up next, Cornell will take on Fairleigh Dickinson University for its Berman Field home opener on Sunday at 5 p.m.