The men’s soccer team punctuated a dominant Family Weekend for Brown sports with a 1-0 victory over visiting Cornell. In a repeat of last year’s fixture against the Big Red, Matthew Chow ’19 scored the game-winning — and only — goal, his team-leading fifth of the season. With victories by Harvard and Dartmouth keeping them tied atop the standings, this result maintains the Bears’ (7-6-1, 2-1-1 Ivy) place just behind the leaders in a tie with Columbia.
After a couple days of clouds and rain, the sun finally came out for Sunday’s clash. Unfortunately for both teams, blustery conditions also plagued the field, making aspects of play even more challenging.
Cornell (1-11-2, 0-4-0) came into the game having just secured its first win of the 2016 campaign within the last two weeks. The Big Red sport a league-worst defense that has recorded zero shutouts and allowed a whopping 2.42 goals per game overall and 2.50 in conference matchups. It also fields the league’s least productive offense, scoring at a paltry 0.79 goals per game.
Both teams came out flat in the beginning of the match. Between the wind slowing down balls and a general lack of sharpness, neither team could string together anything meaningful in the first 30 minutes.
“The wind did affect the movement of the ball, but I thought it wasn’t that obvious in the game,” Chow said. “We just adjusted by making sure we (got) to every first and second ball.”
The best chance in the half for either team fell to Chow. He received the ball out wide left from Joseph Lee ’20 and proceeded to cut inside. His defender fell to the ground as Chow unleashed a shot on his preferred right foot. But the keeper was there to keep the game scoreless.
A first half characterized by sloppy passes, many tackles and no definitive momentum for either team ended even. Notably, the Big Red were limited to no shots on goal.
The Bears wasted no time in getting on the board in the second stanza. Co-captain Nate Pomeroy ’17 intercepted an errant back pass by a Cornell player. He dribbled around his defender, only to be hacked down inside the box. The referee blew his whistle to give the Bears a penalty kick, much to the dismay of the Big Red fans and players. Chow stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way to open the scoring in the 46th minute.
The pace picked up from there: Louis Zingas ’18 was found down the byline, and he zipped in a cross that was cleared away by Cornell defenders. Chow nearly struck again when he ripped a shot about 25 yards from goal that rattled off the crossbar and away from the net.
Cornell’s best opportunity came in the 65th minute. A ball was laid off to an attacker at the edge of the box, who rocketed a shot onto goal. Erik Hanson ’17 strongly parried the ball away from net, keeping Bruno in the lead.
As the winds began to pick up again, the Big Red still searched for its equalizer. It had several set pieces but could not capitalize on them despite the squad’s pronounced height advantage.
“We won the aerial battle today, which was a huge factor,” said James Myall ’18.
The Bears saw out the end of the game with a combination of organized defending and solid up-field possession. Several times, they played it into Cornell’s corners to burn more minutes off the clock. When the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the game, it was still 1-0 to Bruno.
It was the perfect rebound for a Bears team coming off two consecutive losses. With the offense not quite able to capitalize on its chances, it was the defense that shone brightest. Through four conference fixtures, the Bears’ conference-best defense has allowed a measly two goals.
“I thought we did a good job winning individual battles,” Chow said. “Our attitude towards one v. one situations was important for today’s success.”
With three games left on the season, the defense will need to stay strong to give the team a chance to win out. The team’s next test is away next weekend against Penn.