Sports

Defensive pressure lifts men’s soccer over Big Red

Bruno’s unrelenting defense holds Cornell to zero shots on goal in Saturday’s contest

By
Staff Writer
Monday, October 26, 2015

Matthew Chow ’19 passes the ball to a teammate. Chow scored the only goal of Saturday’s game from the left corner after 59 minutes of play.

A direct goal from a corner kick by Matthew Chow ’19 was enough for the men’s soccer team to squeak past Cornell, 1-0. With the victory, Bruno (7-5-1, 2-1-1 Ivy) returned from the rough conditions of Ithaca with all three points.

The victory vaulted the team into third place in the Ivy League midway through the season, marking a vast improvement from the team’s position at this same point last season, when it was tied for second-to-last.

The pivotal moment of the game came in the 60th minute. Chow, a frequent corner taker for the Bears, whipped in a ball from the left corner to the back post. The ball curled right into the side netting without being touched for an Olympic goal — a goal directly from a corner. It was Chow’s third tally of the season, giving him the second-most on the squad.

One goal was all the team would need, as the Bears’ backline held its own and posted its fourth shutout of the season.

“I believe it was a very tough game. The conditions were rough and we had to grind out the win,” Chow said.

On paper, Cornell (3-10-1, 1-3) seemed to be no match for Bruno, having only recorded three wins all season. Brown’s high-powered offense — one of the most prolific in the league — looked to take advantage of Cornell’s porous defense that had allowed 1.38 goals per game.

A team that prides itself on its defensive capabilities, the Bears also faced the statistically worst offense among the teams in the Ancient Eight. The Big Red’s feeble offense averages 0.54 goals per game and had been shut out eight times going into the matchup.

But the Bears, who have been known to start slow and have had several lackadaisical first halves this campaign, continued that trend Saturday.

Cornell came out of the gates hungry to prove it was a worthy opponent. It arguably had the better chances, including several dangerous crosses that had to be dealt with by defenders or goalkeeper Teo Norhagen ’19, who made his second start of the season.

The Big Red’s best chance of the half came when Norhagen committed an egregious punting error that almost resulted in an open opportunity for a couple of Cornell players. Brown defenders tracked back appropriately and were able to clear the area of any danger, saving Norhagen from making the blooper reels.

The half ended 0-0, and the Big Red had a commanding 7-1 lead in shots, though none were on target. Cornell also had a surprisingly high number of corner kicks at eight.

After the break, the Bears came alive and looked to take control of the flow of the game. The newfound offensive pressure provided a stark contrast to the lack of chances created in the first half.

“Coming into the second half, we were told to press higher up the field to force turnovers closer to their goal,” Chow said.

The increased pressure put Cornell on the back foot, and the Bears were rewarded when Chow — an emerging stalwart in the team’s starting lineup — scored his goal.

But Cornell did not surrender and instead replied by ramping up the pressure. Chris St. Germain connected with a cross in the 63rd minute. Fortunately for Bruno, it careened off the post and out of play. The Big Red would not get a chance better than that, and the game ended as a slim victory for Brown.

In the end, the Bears held Cornell to zero shots on target, and Norhagen recorded his second shutout in as many starts. This victory also improved the team’s record in games decided by one goal to 5-4. These are the types of results the team needs to grind out if it hopes to propel itself further in Ivy contention.

“Our determination and focus during our set pieces is what makes the difference in these tight, one-goal games,” Chow said. “We do a good job both offensively and defensively when it comes to dead-ball situations.”

The team hopes to keep this momentum in a midweek match against UMass Lowell, followed by a clash at home next weekend against Penn.

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