The Plattsburgh State men’s soccer team will enter its final game before SUNYAC play coming off a pair of 0-0 double-overtime draws. The Cardinals will kick off at Clarkson University Saturday at 2 p.m. looking to find the scoring touch that has eluded them to this point of the season.
PSUC (1-3-2) will need to hand the Golden Knights (5-0-0) their first loss of the season to enter conference play with positive momentum.
For head coach Chris Taylor, in his first season with the Cards after four years coaching at Clarkson, the record of Saturday’s opponent comes as no surprise.
“They’re doing what I expected them to do this year, which is beat the teams in front of them,” Taylor said.
The connection with Taylor is something neither the coach nor the players are focused on ahead of the game.
“We don’t care who we’re playing or when we’re playing,” Price said.
To win at Clarkson, PSUC will need to end its goalless drought. The Cards are coming off a 0-0 draw Tuesday at Skidmore College (2-1-2) in which they had several opportunities in front of goal.
“The first half was really positive,” Taylor said. “We controlled the game. We found a lot of space in the midfield. We were able to put some combinations together, and we always just seemed one piece of quality away from getting it in.”
PSUC generated a few good scoring opportunities in the second overtime period but were still unable to find the back of the net.
“Overtimes are tricky,” Taylor said. “Things get stretched. People are tired and nervous that one mistake could end the game.”
The Skidmore game was the second in a row for the Cards that required an extra 20 minutes of play. Last Saturday, the team also played to a scoreless draw against St. Lawrence University (3-0-1) at the home field of SUNY Oneonta.
Despite the result, Taylor was impressed with what he saw on the field.
“The St. Lawrence game was by far the best we’ve played this year,” Taylor said. “That’s an opponent that we expect to be in the top 25 this year. To be honest,we took it to them the majority of the game. We’re scratching our heads wondering how we didn’t score four or five.”
The streak of 0-0 draws could have been three games, as PSUC had that same scoreline against UMass-Boston (1-5-0) after 60 minutes Friday when junior forward Jimmy Marchena was assessed a red card, forcing the team to play with 10 men for the final half hour.
Despite the numeric disadvantage, the Cards were able to hold on until the Beacons’ Julio DaSilva scored on a scramble in front of the net in the 81st minute. Gerardo Castaneda doubled the lead one minute and 16 seconds later.
“We responded a lot better than most of us thought we would,” Price said. “We actually stepped up our game. Even though we were down a man, we had the momentum for at least 10 or 20 minutes after that. Unfortunately, they slipped one in the back of the net and it just went downhill from there.”
Lack of offensive output has been a common thread this season. To date, PSUC has scored one goal from open play and two from the penalty spot in six games. Taylor is not worried at this stage, as the team has regularly generated opportunities.
“We are putting the ball in the right position a lot of times,” Taylor said. “I think we are so desperate to get it that we are smashing at some chances and missing that little bit of quality at the end.”
While the offense has struggled to find the net, the Cards’ defense has found success in keeping the ball out on the other end, with three clean sheets in the last four contests. Price, who has missed several chances himself, said the defensive performance has made the goal drought easier to handle.
“It’s just their work ethic,” Price said. “They are covering for each other and doing everything they need to do not to have the ball in our end.”
Taylor applauded the efforts of his back line of Luke Rapaport, Michael Grald, Amani Francois and Joe Gula, who have played nearly every minute this season. Behind that defensive line, Taylor was quick to praise sophomore goalkeeper Ryan Wilson for his play in net.
“He’s through the roof,” Taylor said. “He’s one of the top goalkeepers I’ve seen at our level. He made some big saves when we needed him to, and he also made some tricky situations look routine.
Wilson was reluctant to accept the praise, but wasn’t worried about the lack of scoring affecting his play.
“Speaking for my back four and myself, I wouldn’t say there is any pressure,” Wilson said. “We know what we have to do. I wouldn’t say we’re nervous at all.”
With little to worry about on the back end, both Taylor and Price were confident that the goals will come eventually.
“We’re clicking good right now,” Price said. “We just need to put it in the back of the net. Once we get one, I promise you that more will come.”
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