Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Golden Eagles clip the Cards’ wings

The Plattsburgh State men’s soccer team’s season is over. The Cardinals fell 2-0 in a SUNYAC quarterfinal match at the College at Brockport Saturday, ending their hopes of returning to the conference final or reaching the NCAA tournament.

“We’re bitterly disappointed with how the season went,” head coach Chris Taylor said. “We expected more of ourselves. I’m not throwing it all on the players. The coaches have to do better, and the players have to do better.”

Taylor said Saturday’s game was a tightly matched battle and noted that PSUC (6-9-3, 3-5-1) had the better scoring chances in the game. The Cards struggled, however, to put those shots on net — managing only two shots on target all game.

Brockport (14-4-2, 5-2-2) put 11 of their 13 shots on net.

“Ultimately, I thought we did some good things in the middle of the pitch,” Taylor said. “But in both boxes we just weren’t good enough in the end.”

For Taylor, the game was almost a metaphor for PSUC’s year.

“It summed up the season a little bit,” Taylor said. “We did some good things, but, in the big moments of the game, we didn’t do enough.”

With the Cards eliminated, Taylor was able to reflect on how things progressed in his first season at the helm of his alma mater.

PSUC struggled offensively early on — scoring only once from open play in the first six games — and dropped their first SUNYAC contest, fittingly against the same Golden Eagles who would end up eliminating them. Taylor said these early struggles meant the Cards were playing from behind all season.

“I just felt we were always chasing this season, after getting off to tough start, and we never recovered,” Taylor said. “I don’t think we played to our level. I think the players will admit that; the coaches will admit that.”

A final record three games below .500 does not match with Taylor’s view of his team’s abilities.

“There were very few teams we came up against all year where we said ‘they’re just flat-out better than us,’” Taylor said. “I think we were our own worst enemy at times.”

After finding it difficult to score during long stretches of the season, PSUC will have to answer several questions if next year is to be better. The first question is about who will be looked on to score the goals.

Four of this year’s seniors — Taka Fukushima, Chris Robertson, Alex Price and Amani Francois — accounted for 12 of the Cards’ 17 goals in 2018. Junior forward Jimmy Marchena, who scored twice, led among players returning for the 2019 season.

While Taylor singled out freshman defenseman Michael Grald, sophomore defenseman Luke Rapaport and freshman midfielder Alex Alejo as underclassmen who should be able to step up next season, he also acknowledged that everybody is going to have to improve.

“We know that we’ve got the talent, but we didn’t put it together this year,” Taylor said. “Everybody’s got to step up.”

Taylor also pointed to Marchena and junior forward Sean Cray as players with the potential to step into the scoring role.

One player whom Taylor particularly hopes to see improvement from is sophomore midfielder Cameron Richards.

“We’ve got people like Cameron Richards, who has the potential to be one of the best players in the league,” Taylor said. “He’s got to put it together week to week.”

Richards was happy to hear that praise from his coach.

“It fills me with a lot of confidence to know that he thinks that,” Richards said. “Coach has been there and done that in the SUNYAC, so his saying that really pushes me on. I believe that, with the plans I have set for myself this off season, and hopefully a great team around me next year, we can make that happen.”

PSUC’s players will have assigned workout plans for the offseason, but Taylor also hopes to see mental and emotional improvement.

“We’ve maybe got to sacrifice a bit of our emotion at times,” Taylor said. “We’re an emotional team. We’ve got to get down to business and not worry about… things that are out of our control.”

That idea of sacrifice played into what Taylor said was the key to making next year better than this season.

“We’ve got to look at ourselves as a team and decide what we really want and what we are really willing to give,” Taylor said.

With the Cards already eliminated, Taylor was on the road recruiting most of this week, looking for players who can make an immediate impact and improve his team.

“At the end of the day, we’re disappointed with the season,” Taylor said. “The work for next season is already well underway. We’re determined to make sure that next year is better.”

Email Nathanael LePage at cp@cardinalpointsonline.com

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