The Plattsburgh State men’s soccer team kicked off their conference schedule this past weekend with a win at home over the Bears of SUNY Potsdam, in which two players earned weekly conference honors.
The Cardinals must now continue SUNYAC play with one of their toughest weekends yet, facing an improved Oswego team before hosting the nationally-ranked Red Dragons of Cortland
“Two big games this upcoming weekend,” said sophomore forward, and scorer of the game-winner against Potsdam, Kyle Pfaff. “But I think we’ll be ready for them.”
The Cards’ confidence was galvanized by starting off conference play with a 3-0 win over Potsdam on Saturday, which saw goals scored by three different players, while goalkeeper Patrick Feeley recorded his third clean sheet on the season. Feeley’s performance earned him SUNYAC Defensive Player of the Week honors, while a goal and an assist proved enough for Sophomore forward Sean Cray to be SUNYAC Offensive Player of the week.
Head coach Christopher Waterbury said that PSUC prepared to face a Potsdam team that would be dangerous in the air and on set pieces.
“You’ve got one team playing a certain style, and another team playing another,” Waterbury said. “And the key is who can dictate the style played on the field.”
While Waterbury was happy with the game’s result, he still saw room for improvement. “I think it’s too strong to say we were very successful,” Waterbury said. “I think we survived it well at times. We did make a couple mistakes, and we were able to not allow those to hurt us.”
The opening goal, scored by Pfaff was a nearly identical play to the one a week prior, against Clarkson, in which Pfaff provided the assist. Pfaff stated that this play, in which the ball-carrier attacks deep along the endline before crossing it into the box, has been a focus in practice for the Cards.
“[Senior defenseman] Elver [Maldonado] just played a really good ball,” said Pfaff. “I was in the right spot at the right time, because we’ve been practicing it. When I’m on the other end crossing the ball, I expect the same thing from my teammates, and it’s starting to show.”
PSUC added to their tally in the second half with a similar goal from Sean Cray, who was able to easily score off a cross from junior midfielder Takashi Fukushima. After the game, Fukushima admitted that he did think about taking on the shot himself, but decided to stick with the game plan.
“My job is to help the offense,” said Fukushima. “I saw a couple guys around me, so rather than take a shot I made a higher possibility to score.”
The play is notable in part part because Fukushima is returning to play despite continuing to recover from a preseason ankle injury. That injury is not enough, however, to distract Fukushima from his role.
“Sometimes I feel pain,” said Fukushima. “When I take a touch, it feels off, but my mindset is to do my job to help us win. Any time I play on the field, I have to do my best, even if I’m injured.”
The Cards capped off the scoring with the first career goal by senior defenseman Juan Rodriguez of of an assist from Cray inside the six yard box. While it is uncommon for a defenseman, it was no accident that Rodriguez was on the field in such an advanced position.
“I looked at the score, and it was 2-0,” said Waterbury. “I wanted [Rodriguez] as a target up top to be able to hold the ball. He’s a good defender in the air. So I also wanted to put him on as another defender. On any of their free kicks or long throws, he was coming back to help us. The goal, that was just gravy.”
Waterbury’s final reflection after the game was positive. “I’m proud of the guys,” said Waterbury. “It’s good to start off with a win in the conference.”
PSUC’s next opponent is SUNY Oswego (6-2-1, 1-1). The Lakers, who have already exceeded their 4-13 record last season, will visit the Field House Soccer Complex at 3 p.m. on Friday.
With Oswego starting their conference slate with a 2-0 win over New Paltz and a 3-1 loss to nationally-ranked Oneonta, the Cards are not underestimating this foe.
“They’ve got a new coach, they’ve got a lot of renewed energy,” Waterbury said of the Lakers. “They’re playing great. There’s nothing more dangerous than a team that believes in what they’re doing.”
While the staff and players preach looking at one game at a time, it is difficult not to look ahead toward the daunting task that PSUC will face on Saturday at 1 p.m., when the Cards will host SUNY Cortland. The Red Dragons (8-1, 2-0) come in ranked No. 8 in the United Soccer Coaches poll.
While it took some late-game heroics to earn a 1-0 win over New Paltz on Saturday, Cortland will be riding a lot of momentum after starting their conference schedule with a 4-2 over Oneonta, ranked No. 14 in the nation. The Cards are aware of the calibre of this opponent, but insist that their approach will be the same.
“I’ll give it to Cortland, they’re phenomenal,” said Pfaff. “But as long as we play our game and keep our heads on a swivel, I think we’ll be perfectly fine.”
With this challenging weekend ahead, the Cards approach the next games with confidence. “We may have started off a little bit slow, but we’re really rolling now,” Pfaff said. “I’m not worried about any teams in the SUNYAC, and I don’t think anyone else is.”
Email sports at firstname.lastname@example.org