Late goals haunt men’s soccer in conference play

After two straight losses, a focus on defense

By Matthew Luchins

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As the great philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

In back-to-back-to-back UAA road games against ranked opponents, men’s soccer has lost by allowing a goal in the final 10 minutes. Two weeks ago, it was a 1–0 loss at Emory. Last Friday, second-year Garrett Laird’s goal put the Maroons ahead before Rochester’s Misha Carrel-Thomas swindled away a possible victory with a late tying goal.

In Sunday’s 3–2 loss against Case, Trevor Bell completed his hat-trick with three minutes remaining. With better defense late in their games, and the Maroons (7–5–1, 1–2–1) would find themselves leading the UAA. Instead they find themselves at the bottom of the conference with just three games to be played.

“To say that conceding late goals has been a problem would be a big understatement,” said head coach Scott Wiercinski. “We played well in both games [last weekend]. Against Rochester, we defended our box courageously until their goal. Sunday we played extremely well offensively. I’d say it was our best performance. We moved the ball better than in the past and created good scoring opportunities. Our defense just conceded some poor goals.”

The statistics reflect Wiercinski’s assertion. Rochester easily out-shot the Maroons, 18–11, but only forced third-year goalkeeper Chris Giusto into six saves—several shots were blocked or missed under heavy defensive pressure. Two days later at Case, while the Maroons were able to take 19 shots, three of the Spartan’s eight attempts found the net.

“We have always known we can play against teams ranked highly like Rochester, Emory, and Carnegie, and in the UAA we have to be able to do so,” said third-year Stanton Coville, who converted a penalty against Case to take his team-high goals total to six. “However, they are ranked for a reason and they will punish any small mistake we make. I really don’t think it’s physical or mental fatigue [that’s caused the late goals]… maybe a bit against Case, as it was the second game of a long travel weekend. But that was no excuse for us as we just made too many socc,er mistakes against a team that we should have beaten. We had more of the possession and more shots; they just took advantage of our errors.”

The pattern could continue tonight. The Maroons travel to the UW–Whitewater, a ranked but non-conference opponent.

“I believe you get better by playing tough games,” Wiercinski said. “There’s no point in playing games where you will win 6–0, 7–0 and then think that you’re a good team when that’s not necessarily the case. I think our players are excited to come here not just because of the rigorous academics, but also the rigorous athletics. This game will prepare us for, hopefully, a good run in the UAA and NCAA tournament.”