When forward Jamin Gogo Peters ’26 deftly avoided two defenders in the 18-yard box and unleashed a left-footed shot into the bottom corner of the net to tie the game with just two minutes remaining, it looked as if he had earned the men’s soccer team (5-3-1, 0-1-1 Ivy League) a deserved point against No. 22 Cornell (9-1, 2-0).
The goal came just 15 minutes after Cornell opened the scoring in the Saturday match at Stevenson-Pincince Field on a tap-in from midfielder Brandon Morales, which seemed certain to be the deciding goal.
But the Bears had hardly finished celebrating Peters’ equalizer when the narrative of the game was again flipped on its head. With just 17 seconds left to play, a Cornell forward — this time, Matthew Goncalves — again found himself alone at the back post for a tap-in, securing the Big Red a 2-1 victory.
“We lost the game because of key moments,” said Head Coach Chase Wileman. “That’s soccer in general.”
The dramatic conclusion to the game came after nearly 73 minutes of deadlock in which the Bears, set up in a defensive 5-4-1 formation, repelled a dangerous Cornell team, which had just defeated No. 7 Syracuse University 2-1 earlier in the week.
“They play 4-4-2. They’re very good in the wide areas with their fullbacks and their wide midfielders and also they have a lot of runners from midfield. Playing in a 5-4-1 was just to slow them down and deal with their numbers in wide areas,” Wileman said.
The Big Red’s best chance in the first half came when a through ball was slipped in behind Brown center back Taha Kina ’24 for Cornell forward Emeka Eneli, who cut back to the middle and fired a left-footed shot off the inside of the post. The rebound then landed for Big Red defender Connor Drought, who sent a shot over the crossbar.
Cornell outshot Brown 6-0 in the first half, but neither team had a shot on target until Morales’s goal.
In the second half, the Bears’ attack posed a far greater threat, with a golden opportunity falling to forward Kojo Dadzie ’24 nine minutes into the half. On the counterattack, midfielder Scott Gustafson ’24 delivered a perfect cross for Dadzie, who controlled the ball on his first touch but sent it over the crossbar on his second.
“If we just played one more pass or had a little more quality, we could’ve really hurt them in transition,” Wileman said.
Cornell nearly broke through minutes later when Eneli, who again got in behind the Bruno back line, controlled a lobbed through ball and looped a shot over the head of Brown goalkeeper Henrik Weiper ’26, who was happy to see it bounce wide.
But 13 minutes later, Cornell got their goal. A cross to the back post from the right side of midfield was headed back across the net, thighed along by Goncalves before it found Morales alone at the opposite post for a tap-in.
After Cornell’s opener, Brown switched to a 3-5-2 formation in an effort to get more numbers in attacking positions. Still, with Brown gaining little traction on offense, the game looked destined for a 1-0 result — until Peters led a lightning-fast counterattack, playing a crisp give-and-go with forward Brady Van Epps ’23 that sent Peters into the 18-yard box, where a nifty touch and clinical finish did the rest.
But after the equalizer, Cornell threw numbers forward, while Brown returned to their 5-4-1 formation and, at times, had all 11 men in the defensive third. With the ball stuck in Brown’s half, Goncalves capitalized on lax Bruno defending. The ball was played out to Drought on the wing, who sent a cross to the back post where Goncalves, making a run behind Kina, cushioned it into the net — virtually guaranteeing Cornell’s victory.
“It’s always frustrating when you lose and you don’t necessarily feel like you were the worse team on the day. In a sense, it’s unlucky, but at the same time, we switched off for a second and they didn’t. That doesn’t mean they’re better than us, it just means it’s mentality,” said midfielder Charlie Adams ’24.
Still, the result provided a boost in confidence for the Bears, who lost 4-0 to Cornell last season. “I feel like we can compete with any team. We have the players to. It’s definitely a huge improvement from last year,” Dadzie said.
The Bears will travel to Boston College Tuesday before hosting Harvard Saturday.
“One side is, we’re right there and really close,” Wileman said. “The negative is (that there are) things that we really need to work on in terms of winning mentality and habits, and every little play matters.”