It was a triumphant weekend for the men’s soccer team, as the Red won both of its home games and captured momentum heading into an important stretch of the season.
On Friday night, the Red came out with a 2-1 victory over a gritty St. Joseph’s team, thanks to a 77th-minute goal from freshman forward Matthew Goncalves. Cornell was given no cakewalk in its first game back on East Hill.
As has been the case in each of its three wins this fall, Cornell struck first. In the 19th minute, sophomore defender Wilson Eisner pressed the ball forward and drew a foul from a Hawks defender, setting up a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box.
Senior forward Tyler Bagley, the team’s primary set-piece taker this season, stepped forward for the all-important free kick. He proceeded to boot a curling strike into the top-left corner of the net, seizing a 1-0 advantage for the Red.
While the Red was in possession for a majority of the game, St Joseph’s sophomore keeper Luis Ludosan proved difficult to beat, making nine saves against a pestering Cornell attack. He kept the game close for the high-pressing Hawks, who tied the contest.
In the 65th minute, a pass forward by junior keeper Brady McSwain was intercepted by senior midfielder Alvin Dahn, then given off to senior forward Matias Mancini to knock into the bottom-left corner of the net. With the game now equalized 1-1, the Red needed a breakthrough.
This time, it was Bagley setting up his teammate. In the 77th minute, he fired a corner into the front of the box that Goncalves could get a leg on and sneak past the keeper. Cornell took a 2-1 lead with just 12 minutes left. The game’s back-and-forth style continued until the last minute.
All in all, it took a stout effort from the backline and McSwain to keep the win in sight. The keeper finished with seven saves in an impressive outing. Eisner’s play at defensive midfielder — making crucial tackles and launching attacks — was key to the win. The play of sophomore center back Mateo Rodriguez, who helped keep the defense organized and launched the ball up the field, also helped lead the Red to victory.
“We really get along with each other off the field, which fosters trust on the field,” Rodriguez said, speaking about the backline. “We have a great understanding of how each other play.”
The consistent presence of Rodgriguez has been crucial in early victories, even as he transitioned to collegiate-level soccer matches.
“Adjusting to the college game was hard at first, especially this spring semester, because it is more physical than the game I was used to from back home,” Rodriguez said. “It has made me a smarter player in terms of how I move off the ball, in terms of positioning, which in the end really benefits my game no matter what situation I’m put in.”
Returning to the pitch Sunday night, the Red’s attack continued to flourish in an up-tempo contest against UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos arrived at Berman Field with no signs of jetlag. Again, Cornell got the game going early, as Bagley found the back of the net in the 15th minute. But the Gauchos quickly punched back — with a 20th-minute chip-shot goal from freshman forward Salvador Aguilar — to settle things at 1-1.
In the second half, Cornell came out quickly on the attack, but missed chances left the Red open to an untimely counter. In the 54th minute, a cross by sophomore midfielder Nemo Philipp found the right foot of freshman defender Lucas Gonzalez, who placed it into the right side of the net, putting UCSB up by one.
The game grew more physical as the second half wore on, but it was Cornell who capitalized on its opponent’s lack of discipline. Two Gaucho mistakes proved vital to victory. First, a 69th-minute foul in the box gave Bagley a penalty kick opportunity. He continued his excellent form, burying the ball into the bottom-left corner of the net for his fifth goal of the season.
But UCSB quickly responded by way of a through ball to sophomore forward Finn Ballard McBride, who beat his defender and the keeper to score the go-ahead goal in the 77th minute.
Then the Gauchos erred again, conceding another penalty kick in the 84th minute when a defender’s cleat struck freshman forward Alioune Ka in the chest. This time, senior Harry Fuller stepped up and tucked the ball away into the bottom-right corner, drawing both sides level at 3-3 as regular time came to a close.
Despite playing its third game in six days, the Red played on. In the first overtime period, the Gauchos dominated possession but failed to find the winning goal. Then, two minutes into the second overtime, Bagley launched a corner kick that found the head of sophomore defender Henry Hylbert and made its way to the back of the net. Hylbert’s first collegiate goal sent the Gauchos home and delivered an impressive non-conference win for the Red.
Counting Bagley’s two-goal game against High Point last Tuesday, the senior notched 12 total points on five goals and two assists in his last three games — earning him Ivy League Player of the Week. In addition to that accolade, Bagley was also recognized as the Top Drawer Soccer National Player of the Week, the first national honor of its kind for a Cornell player since Daniel Haber was named to College Soccer News’ National Team of the Week in 2012.
Up next, the Red (3-1) will travel to Madison, New Jersey, to battle Fairleigh Dickinson (2-3) at 5 p.m. Saturday. Then, Cornell returns home for a rivalry game against Syracuse (3-2). The Red will meet the Orange at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21 at Berman Field.
“The past four games were a really good test,” Rodriguez said. “We think we are capable of competing with anybody in the country, but we will need to approach the upcoming games with the same seriousness.”