The Cardinals Men’s Soccer team (3-4-1) suffered a heartbreaking loss at home Sept. 25 versus the Cortland Red Dragons (8-1-1) by a 2-1 score. It was a beautiful day on the home pitch yet was soured by a late-game penalty in the box on Plattsburgh that led to the penalty-kick goal that decided the match.
Fresh off the heels of a grueling 1-1 2 OT tie in Oswego to open SUNYAC play, the Cardinals had to turn around and head back north for their home game the next day versus the Red Dragons. The bleachers were packed on a sunny, 75 degree Saturday afternoon. The energy and buzz coming from fans of both sides could be felt. Yet it was the visiting Red Dragons, and their fans who got to enjoy the victory.
“There was just a little lack of physicality in the game, because we were tired from the game before,” Senior forward Yusif Okine said, “It was just a tough game, physically we were down a little bit because we were tired from the 90 minute, plus double overtime game we played before.”
That possible fatigue showed early as Cortland came out strong in the first half. The Red Dragon’s senior midfielder Mikey Lanzetta subbed on and then scored the opener at the 30 – minute mark.
“It was off a corner [kick]. They broke down our defense pretty easily, which was our mistake. It was a lack of communication,” First-year goalie Teddy Healy said. “They shot a pretty good shot to the far post, just a couple yards outside the box.”
But as much as Cortland tried to keep the ball on the Cardinal’s side of the field, the counterattacks and long possessions were frequently available and taken advantage of by Plattsburgh.
“They’re a very, very talented team and probably the strongest team in the conference so we knew they’d have a little more of the ball than we are used to,” Plattsburgh Head Coach Chris Taylor said. “But we planned to be really aggressive without the ball. We knew that when we wanted to, we could hit space quickly.”
However, the Cardinals weren’t able to put one in the back of the net in the first 45 minutes. Okine and Healy mentioned that the rallying message of sticking to their game plan and having the mindset that they were the more physically dominant team was what led to the Cardinals’ quick start to the second half. Within just the first 10 minutes, substitute first year midfielder Brian Coughlan was able to punch one in, at the 53 minute mark, to tie the score at one apiece.
“He’s a great asset to the team because he provides that goal-scoring aspect and just brings the confidence out of people that are around him,” Okine said. “What he brought for us was very key because it just made us keep going.”
The game stayed in a deadlock of 1-1 for the next 20-or-so minutes, before Plattsburgh’s sophomore midfielder Jack Healy committed a questionable penalty in the box.
“I didn’t think it was a penalty. I thought the defender did a good job shielding and the two players kind of tripped over each other’s legs,” Healy said. “The ref gave them a controversial penalty kick in the last 10 minutes.”
This wasn’t the first time the officials had been a subject of attention in the game either. There were potential missed calls at crucial moments that affected both sides, yet other cautions were issued for seemingly more minor infractions; in total there were three penalties of Cortland, and two on Plattsburgh. However, Cortland’s Blake Aronson took and converted on the PK attempt to put the Dragons up 2-1 with little time remaining.
“It’s really hard for players to adjust when things are allowed on one-end but not the other, and that’s just where we got a little frustrated,” Coach Taylor said. “But decisions happen in games and you’ve got to respect them. I’d rather we stop the ball from coming into the box in the first place.”
Plattsburgh would make a late push to try and even the score, but it was too little, too late. The Cortland players stormed the field in celebration of their victory while heads hung low on Plattsburgh’s end. Yet, there are still practically all of their SUNYAC games remaining, and spirits are still high after just a 0-1-1 start to conference play.
“People are kind of looking down on us right now so it’ll be a good feeling if we beat these teams it’ll be, ‘Oh, watch out for these guys,’ and we know we can do that so we’re confident in our abilities,” Healy Said.