Thursday, May 30, 2024

Cards prove it in SUNYAC

Defender and captain Jack Healy is mobbed by his teammates as he celebrates his last-minute game-winning goal against the Union Garnet Chargers at the Field House Sept. 16.

 

Collin Bolebruch / Cardinal Points

Midfielder John Hayes heads a ball in the box at the Field House Sept. 20.

By Collin Bolebruch

Plattsburgh Cardinals men’s soccer continued its rampage over two home matches last week, maintaining its undefeated record of 5-0-1. The Cards fine-tuned its game and eked out a 2-1 win over the non-conference Union Garnet Chargers (2-4-1) Saturday, Sept. 16 thanks to a last-minute Jack Healy goal. Plattsburgh followed up that performance with a 4-0 shutout of the Potsdam Bears (3-2-1) in both teams’ SUNYAC opener Sept. 20.

The Cardinals are having its best start to a season in the Head Coach Chris Taylor era and are on the road to topping 2016’s 7-0 start. The four-goal Potsdam win is also the strongest conference win since 2016. With 10 games left on the schedule, Plattsburgh is just three wins away from matching last year’s eight.

The win against Union was Plattsburgh’s last non-conference game before the SUNYAC play opened. The Cardinals will play just two more non-SUNYAC games this season — at the SUNY Morrisville Mustangs (2-5-1) Oct. 4 and the regular season finale at home against the St. Lawrence Saints (2-2-2) Oct. 25.

The landscape of the game seemingly changed early against Union, when the Chargers opened scoring at 6:28 into the game. Union midfielder Aiden Normand sank the teams first shot for Plattsburgh’s quickest opponent goal of the season and the first time this year goalkeeper Teddy Healy allowed a goal before he saved one.

Wing Modou Badjie scored the unassisted equalizer from the left side at the 26:34 mark, exactly a minute after he substituted in. The match remained at a stalemate for the next 60 minutes.

At the 86:11 mark, forward Brian Coughlan set up for the corner kick. He sent the ball in front of the goal where midfielder Frankie Palumbo tapped it with his head, setting up defender Jack Healy to put the ball in for his third career goal.

Heading into Potsdam, Plattsburgh was staring down a Bears team that has beat expectations so far. Potsdam hasn’t recorded a winning season since 2016, yet was heading into Plattsburgh with just one loss.

Nevertheless, the Cardinals beat the Bears by the widest margin in a win this year. After a possession-heavy first half, Plattsburgh exploded scoring in the second.

“If they can’t have it, they can’t really shoot it,” Coughlan said.

Just over 57 minutes into the game, Badjie controlled the ball to the left of the goal. A Potsdam defender slid for control of the ball, taking Badjie with him. Badjie sold the foul, setting up Coughlan for his second penalty kick of the season. And for the second time, Coughlan connected.

“I think [our communication] is just getting better day-by-day,” Coughlan said. “Modou taking his guy on almost every single play, it just really helps our team.”

Coughlan’s score unclogged Plattsburgh’s offense. Six and a half minutes later, forward Xavier Kamba scored, rebounding a shot from Badjie. Right place, right time. Kamba, a first-year, scored his first SUNYAC goal and now ranks second on the team with seven points.

“We’re always talking to each other,” Kamba said. “Chris, telling me right before I scored, he was like, ‘go, get into the box.’”

Palumbo scored with less than five minutes left for good measure. A senior, it was his first career goal. Jack Healy, assisted by Danny Perry, scored with less than a minute left. Healy’s goals in back-to-back games tie his season high of two. On paper, 4-0 looks a lot better than 2-0.

“These SUNYAC games are hard, they’re a good team. I think, sometimes, when we have a game like that, they’re saying, ‘can we still get to the last 20 still nil-nil,’” Taylor said. “It wasn’t a lucky break, we deserved the penalty, but sometimes you just need that opportunity.”

The win helps to cement the Cardinals even more as a legitimate contender in the conference. Under Taylor, Plattsburgh has made the SUNYAC tournament three out of four seasons. It’s now itching for a deep run.

Plattsburgh hits the road tomorrow, Sept. 23, to play the Brockport Golden Eagles (3-2-2, SUNYAC 1-0) for potentially the last time as conference opponents. The Cardinals will then continue its home stretch Wednesday, Sept. 27 when it visits the New Paltz Hawks (5-1-1, SUNYAC 0-1), the team it beat in the playoffs last season.

 

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