SUNY Plattsburgh’s men’s soccer team return to play another season after a 6-9-3 record and a first round appearance in the 2018 SUNYAC tournament where the eventual champions, the Brockport Golden Eagles, beat the Cardinals 2-0.
“[Last season was] a little bit disappointing,” head coach Chris Taylor said of his first season as head coach. “I think we had the talent to do a little bit more, but we didn’t necessarily have the right culture and accountability to achieve what our talent probably deserved.”
Although disappointed with last year, sophomore defender Ethan Behan finds motivation when thinking about last season.
“We had our ups and downs,” Behan said. “We had far higher expectations and didn’t really fulfill them, so that’s what is giving us motivation. We want to go further.”
Junior midfielder Cameron Richards sees a difference in this year’s team in not only spirit but talent.
“I feel like our squad has more depth than last year. Our subs last year wouldn’t do as well as our starters, but I don’t think that’s the case this year,” Richards said. “We have a much deeper team. I think the training is more fun than last year. We just seem to enjoy it more.”
Taylor responded to last year’s issues by hitting the reset button on this season’s team in hopes to build a selfless culture that’ll last.
“It feels like a different team. We’ve got a lot of new guys. It feels like a new start to be honest,” Taylor said. “A lot of the old guys came in with a different outlook after a lot of discussion and reflection on last year.”
Taylor hopes the team will focus on the day-to-day goals the team sets out on more this year instead of looking ahead too much.
“One of the things we’re doing this year is we’re not looking at opponents,” Taylor said. “We’re not looking at games. We’re not looking at championships. We’re not looking at any of that. We’re taking it one day at a time.”
SUNY Plattsburgh lost six seniors from last year while adding six freshmen and five transfers. Mostly intact is the core of goalkeepers that allowed 20 goals last season, which was tied for third best in the SUNYAC. Of the four goalkeepers last year, three are returning.
Looking back on last season, Taylor wants more accountability and selflessness from this year’s team in hopes to lay down the groundwork for the program’s next 10 to 20 years.
“I think at times last year, we did things that were good for ourselves and maybe not for the team,” Taylor said. ”We’re asking for more accountability from the players and to hold each other accountable. The guys have stepped up to that. The guys have really bought [that] it’s their program as well as ours, and it’s only going to be as good as they want it to be.”
A possible bump in the road for this year’s Cards is finding new scoring options. Four seniors last season—Amani Francois, Taka Fukushima, Chris Robertson and Alex Price—netted 12 of SUNY Plattsburgh’s 17 goals last year. As far as finding new scorers to replace production, Taylor will take what he can get with what scoring opportunities the team generates, a trait he felt the team did well in last year.
“We’ll take anybody who scores, you know? We definitely got a lot of new faces in the attacking third, but I think it’s the hardest thing to do, score goals,” he said. “If you can find one person who you can rely upon, fantastic, but it takes a special individual to do that.”
Taylor said some important pieces to this year’s squad is the goalkeeping core, sophomore Alex Alejo and Richards. Alejo earned a starting spot midway through last season as a midfielder and Richards is a player Taylor believes can take the next step and affect games any given week this year.
Richards thinks he can too.
“This is a big season for me,” he said. “If I play well, the team usually plays well.”
The Cards have been practicing since Aug. 17 and put weeks of training to use against Dickinson College and Elizabethtown College last Friday and Saturday away. Both games were losses. Plattsburgh State lost 6-3 to Dickinson and then 2-1 to Elizabethtown.
The Cardinals host the Best Western Plus Cardinal Classic today at 2 p.m. at the Field House starting with Hobart College.