In a match that could be described as nothing short of intense, Marist men’s soccer fell short in their final game of non-conference play, suffering a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Cornell. The match featured it all, from bursts of offensive dominance on both sides, to gritty defensive stands, and even a skirmish at midfield in the game’s closing moments.
Marist (4-2-1) came into the match on the heels of a tight 1-0 road victory over Bryant, a game which saw junior left wing Jared Juleau notch his team-leading fourth assist of the season when he set up graduate student left wing Hugo Guerra for his first goal of the season in the 69th minute. Cornell (6-1-1) entered the match on an even higher note, having reeled off two consecutive victories, including an 8-0 bashing of Canisius last Tuesday
In just the fifth minute of play, the Red Foxes found themselves operating from a precarious position when a yellow card on redshirt senior defender Demarre Montoute led to a Cornell penalty kick. Fifth year forward Emeka Eneli, who received All-Ivy League First Team honors a season ago, lined up to take the shot, firing off a ground ball which veered toward the left post. 2021 MAAC Goalkeeper of the Year Samuel Ilin responded by sprawling out and deflecting the ball to the left of the goal and out of bounds to keep the Big Red off the board.
“I mean it was so early in the game, the game hadn’t settled yet,” said Ilin. “I just focused on doing my absolute best. It was just unfortunate that we got it so early, but all I could do was find a way to save it, so that’s what I did.”
Ilin would follow up his crucial save with another hair-raising play in the 16th minute, when he raced out of goal and past the 18 as sophomore forward Alioune Ka charged toward him. Luckily for Marist, the ball took a favorable hop, allowing Ilin to head the ball back up field and out of harm’s way.
As the first half continued to unfold, Cornell generally did a better job advancing the ball into the offensive third by possessing the ball in that portion of the field for 27% of the half, compared to only 13% for Marist. That’s not to say that Marist didn’t have their fair share of opportunities – both teams had their chances, but space was hard to come by deep in the offensive third due to airtight defense, leading to only one shot on goal for each side.
One of the best first-half looks for Marist came in the 35th minute when Juleau took the ball up into the left side of the box, firing a strong shot off of his left foot which sailed just over the crossbar in the center of the goal. This play was just the first in a series of consecutive possessions in which the Red Foxes couldn’t close offensively in the first half’s waning moments, which at the very least had the benefit of giving their defense a break from the constant penetration they had faced up until that point.
Perhaps their best chance to score before the break unfolded in the 40th minute when a foul directly outside of the box just to the left of center led to a free kick, which senior defender Henrique Cruz took after the ball was tapped. He somehow managed to bend the shot around the entire wall of defenders and towards the bottom right corner of the goal on a beautiful looking strike, but freshman goalkeeper Ryan Friedberg dove out and made the impressive save.
Coming into the second half with the score still knotted at zero, the pace of play picked up with both teams surely feeling the urgency to score. Ascendant sophomore forward Richard Morel, already leading the team with three goals on the young season, tried to net another in the 56th minute when he received a gorgeous feed from overhead inside of the box, but his strong shot was saved by Friedberg.
Moments later, Marist kept up the attack with another close range-shot, this time from Montoute, but his shot sailed over the crossbar. From there, back and forth play continued until the 69th minute, when Juleau received a yellow card for tripping up freshman Cornell midfielder Westin Carnevale just outside of the box.
This play was paramount for a number of reasons, with the first being the apparent shoulder injury that Carnevale suffered after slamming into the ground. Carnevale could be seen writhing in pain and grabbing his shoulder, forcing his removal from the game and setting up an unsuccessful free kick. The sequence also quieted the raucous fans down for a brief yet important moment, a moment which would inevitably decide the game.
Cornell immediately responded to Carnevale’s injury just after play resumed, as junior defender Kisa Kiinger collected a loose ball on the right side in front of the goalie box and fired a shot over the head of Ilin and into the back left corner of the net to give the Big Red a 1-0 lead. The crowd seemed stunned that Cornell managed to score so quickly after the injury break, as most people hadn’t even caught their breath before watching the entire Cornell side gather in celebration of the goal.
“We’ve been doing really well playing the ball short to one another, but I think in that instance, we should’ve collectively agreed to just put the ball up,” said Ilin. “It’s on me a little bit, I should’ve probably just put the ball up and let it be handled in their half, but all we can do is learn from it.”
The final 15 minutes of play were very chippy, with frustrations mounting on both sides over the high number of fouls. Tensions reached a fever pitch when players confronted each other at midfield with about three minutes left in regulation, leading to a red card for Juleau for his role in the conflict.
“There was a lot of grabbing going on, but you’ve got to adjust to that. If that’s the case, you can’t lose your head,” said head coach Matt Viggiano when reflecting on what led to some of his team’s frustrations. “If we want to win the conference, which we’re plenty talented enough to do, we gotta use our heads a lot more.”
The Red Foxes will turn their focus to conference play, which begins on Wednesday at 7 p.m. when they take on St. Peters at home.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez-Paz
Photo from Kira Crutcher