The Binghamton University men’s soccer team’s undefeated start to its America East campaign came to an end on Wednesday night as the Bearcats were edged by defending conference champion Stony Brook University, 2-1.
Binghamton head coach Paul Marco said his team entered the match fully prepared, adding that the game plan worked. The Seawolves (8-3-1, 2-1 America East), however, capitalized.
“You can see that we were the better team today,” he said. “Overall, I am proud of the guys’ performance but disappointed in the outcome, and [there is] a really empty feeling inside right now because I thought our guys deserved more than what we got today.”
The Bearcats (6-6, 2-1 America East) started the game as the more dominant team and put the Seawolves’ defense under constant pressure.
In the 10th minute, BU sophomore forward Steven Celeste hit the post with a quick shot from senior midfielder Adam Whitehead’s lob pass. Binghamton took the lead four minutes later as a floating cross from the left flank by junior back Kevin Bunce found junior midfielder Tommy Moon in the middle of the box. Moon then flicked the ball on with his head, guiding it into the bottom right corner of the goal.
The Bearcats kept up their attacking style of play after the goal. Attempts from senior forward Jake Keegan, sophomore back Derrick Ladeairous and Whitehead were all thwarted by Seawolves senior goalkeeper Stefan Manz.
But the Bearcats didn’t convert, and Stony Brook equalized the score in the 41st minute, when senior forward Raphael Abreu headed home a freekick delivery from near the left corner flag.
“Stony Brook is good on set pieces,” Marco said. “But we should have done two things. One, I don’t think we should have fouled the player. His back is to the field and he is facing the corner flag. And then we were not ready to defend the set piece. And to Stony Brook’s credit, they took us apart. That was the only disappointing moment I [had] in the entire first half.”
The Bearcats came out of the locker room determined to regain control of the game, but a pivotal moment in the 56th minute halted their plans. Whitehead was involved in a controversial incident as he was red carded for kicking out at Stony Brook senior midfielder Berian Gobeil following a challenge from the Stony Brook player that went unpunished.
“If you give the referee [a chance] to call something, he can,” Marco said. “From what I saw, I saw one of their players come right through our player off the ball. Everybody saw it except for the three guys that had the flag and the whistle. The ref saw it differently. He saw [Whitehead] retaliate while he was on the ground, but there is a reason why [he] was on the ground.”
The Seawolves made full use of their numerical advantage and scored again in the 72nd minute. Some nice play on the right between Stony Brook freshman midfielder Martin Giordano and senior defenseman Antonio Crespi opened up the BU defense and sent Gobeil clear on goal. His shot crept under the body of onrushing freshman goalkeeper Stefano Frantellizzi and found the back of the net.
With two minutes to go, Celeste had the chance to tie the game and push it into overtime. But his shot was saved by Manz, and Stony Brook held on to hand BU its first conference loss of the season.
“After the red card I thought our guys did quite well,” Marco said. “[I’m] very proud of the way they performed. We still kept attacking. We had moments to tie the game, and we even had moments to win the game before we conceded the goal.”
The Bearcats are set to host The University of Vermont in the homecoming game on Saturday. After a 0-0 tie with Boston University on Wednesday, the Catamounts (5-4-3, 2-0 America East) are the conference’s last remaining unbeaten squad.
Marco said he believes it is now all about how his team responds, but he accepts that coming up against an in-form Vermont team will provide a big challenge.
“I think that we have to come back and regroup tomorrow in the training, get the guys to recover quickly, and prepare for Vermont on Saturday night,” he said. “Vermont is an experienced team. They bring a lot of juniors and seniors, guys who have been around the league a lot. I think it is going to be a competitive match. Homecoming is always great. We should have a bunch of our alumni as well, so it should be a great weekend.”
Play against the Catamounts is set to kick off at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Bearcats Sports Complex.