With time winding down on the season, men’s soccer is still fighting for a breakthrough.
The Maroons (4–6–2, 0–2 UAA) fell 3–0 to 14th-ranked Carnegie Mellon Saturday, leaving the team winless in four matches—and more worryingly, struggling on both ends of the field.
On homecoming weekend, the Tartans (10–1–1, 1–1) tested rookie netminder Chris Giusto early and often. The rookie made a pair of saves in the seventh minute when a long throw-in was headed toward net; a rebound off the initial save was sent back in by third-year midfielder Ryan Browne, but Giusto had the far post covered.
The Maroons got off their only shot of the game soon afterward. Defensive midfielder Rashad Masri’s long-range effort rocketed off the hands of Tartan goalkeeper Matthew Bazin, but third-year forward Edgar Friloux was just a step behind Bazin, who covered up the ball safely.
Carnegie broke the deadlock in the 10th minute through third-year midfielder Keith Haselhoff. The Maroons cleared a free kick delivery only to the edge of their box, where Haselhoff found room to launch a hard, left-footed volley that took a slight deflection off a Maroon defender and sailed past Giusto for the 1–0 lead.
The Tartans struck again at the half-hour mark. Haselhoff was again involved, this time taking the ball down the left wing, drawing two Chicago defenders to him before sending in a cross that found third-year forward Patrick Lutz, who was unmarked and beat Giusto from 10 yards out. Carnegie retained their 2–0 lead going into halftime.
Seeking changes, head coach Scott Wiercinski opted to put fresh faces on the pitch after the break.
“It was a pretty simple change because we felt that these guys were going to go in there and try to make the game go downhill for us,” Wiercinski said. “For the most part, they tried to do that. The result didn’t change, but I felt that the energy and the urgency was improved in the second half.”
Although the Maroons played with visibly more energy than in the first half, Carnegie was able to pad their lead in the 53rd minute. Haselhoff picked up his second assist when his pass found third-year forward Ricky Griffin at the edge of the box. After cutting into some space, Griffin snuck a shot past Giusto and inside the right post, giving the Tartans a 3–0 lead they would not relinquish.
Chicago created a scoring opportunity through second-year forward Alex Clifford and substitute midfielder Cole Kroshus after Clifford fed Kroshus a pass outside the Carnegie area. The rookie dribbled past two defenders but was unable to get a good left-footed shot off, skying the ball over the bar.
Overall, the Maroons were outshot 20–10, with scoring chances heavily skewed 13–3 to the visitors. The faltering offense is a trend that extends across the winless streak, as Chicago has only scored once in four games. A significant injury list, as well as a schedule that pitted the team against three nationally-ranked opponents in the space of a week, have both limited the transition game.
“Injuries influence the potential for a different and possibly for a winning team dynamic, but there is no doubt that the team is in a rut. Our defense is giving up goals and our offense is not scoring goals, the combination of which is the big ‘L,’” Clifford said.
Wiercinski thinks his squad is certainly capable of picking themselves up after three tough games in eight days.
“We have players who are capable of doing more than they are, and we’re not turning any turnovers into really good possession or good chances on goal,” he said. “We’re not doing the things on defense and in transition to help us on offense, and when you’re not creating offense on your own accord, you really need to rely on those other things, so we’re running out of options, and the few players that are capable of doing it on their own are not getting the help that they need.”
With a week before the Maroons face Brandeis and NYU in a weekend double bill, Wiercinski plans on evaluating all of his tactical options, but his message to the players is simple.
“The most important thing is urgency. It’s not talent, it’s not technique, it’s not tactics—it’s urgency. Our players need to feel that they have to compete every second of the game.”