Conference-play losses derail soccer postseason hopes

By Ezra Teitelbaum

In a perfect world human referees would be replaced by robots. These new robot referees would make every call perfectly using laser sighting technology and infrared global positioning systems. However, in the inevitable instant when these semi-rational robots turn against their human makers, our preciously balanced utopia would come crashing down.

For better or worse we do not live in this kind of freakishly homogenous Shangri-La, and neither does the University of Chicago’s soccer team. In a crushing loss to Emory on October 4, the Maroons were subjected to the worst form of human error. In the 53rd minute of the game a highly questionable foul call was made that awarded Emory with a free kick that tied the game. While the Chicago players did their best to maintain a sense of composure, the momentum of the game had shifted to Emory who went on to a 3-1 win.

A chance at beating the third-ranked team in the country had slipped through the Maroons’ hands (or feet), and they looked on to a week that would most likely make or break the rest of their season.

“With the loss to Emory the team didn’t feel extra pressure but more disappointment,” said fourth-year captain Micah Prochaska. “We all felt we could have and probably should have won.”

Whether the Maroons cared to admit it or not, their next game against Augustana was a must win. Fortunately Augustana was in no position in terms of skill or determination to make a run at a victory. Although the play was at times sloppy, the Maroons dominated their clearly weaker opponent. Second-year Brian Standerfer scored two goals in the first 16 minutes to put the game away early. Standerfer currently leads the team in goals with five. In the 78th minute second-year Giordano Palloni took the ball to the Augustana end line and crossed it back to a ready fourth-year Theo Arvanites at the top of the six.

“I pretty much hit the ball as hard as I could,” said Arvanites, “The keeper got one hand on it but it was too strong for him.” Lights out, back to some more UAA action.

On October 11, the U of C traveled to the Steel City to take on league rival Carnegie Mellon. The team had to adjust to the pace and bounce of a turf field, a surface that makes the style of play as authentic as a game of quarters played on a waterbed. After ten minutes of trial and error the Maroons found their groove and were able to dominate Mellon in possession. The Chicago midfield effectively used short, crisp passes with fourth-year center-mid Eugene Sung controlling much of the action.

“He is the main guy that we go through in our transition from offense to defense,” Prochaska said. “Its Eugene who decides whether we need to combine and possess the ball more, or whether we should play directly to the forwards.”

Despite their consistent play, the Maroons were not able to generate many chances on goal and the game entered overtime with no score. In the extra frame, the man who had dictated much of the tempo throughout struck the deciding blow. On a corner kick hit by Arvanites, Sung found himself unmarked on the six and headed the ball home to end the game. A crucial league victory had the Maroons riding high as they looked forward to another weekend of UAA play.

Last Friday, the Maroons traveled to the shell-shocked home of the Red Sox to face Brandeis University. In this contest they were without Sung who was forced to stay home by an inflexible professor who demanded he take his midterm at the exact time and in the exact place as the rest of the class (that is, if you believe in the quantization of time and space).

Even without their primary organizer, the Maroons jumped out to an early lead. Palloni scored off a free kick in the 26th minute and second-year defender Peter Schlaefer headed home a corner kick in the 67th. However, in a repeat of the match against Emory, Chicago allowed its opponent to creep back into the game. Brandeis scored its first goal after 74 minutes of solid Chicago defense. In a breakdown almost unheard of in soccer, Brandeis scored two goals in the last six minutes of the game. The winner came with 35 seconds remaining.

The Maroons boast a solid 6-3-1 record but they are 1-2 in the UAA. Both losses have been large letdowns, and only time will tell if the Chicago squad can shore up its end-game play and turn its league record around.