Home is where the heart is, and home, for the Binghamton University men’s soccer team, is the Bearcats Sports Complex, where the team has not lost a regular season match since the facility opened in fall 2007. After three grueling tournaments to begin the season, the Bearcats finally played their first home match of the season Sunday afternoon against Cornell University. The good news, for the Bearcats, is that their regular season home unbeaten streak continues; the bad news is it didn’t get the result it wanted.
The Bearcats (1-4-2) and Big Red (3-2-3) played to a scoreless draw following two overtime periods in front of 801 fans. It was the team’s first scoreless tie since Sept. 23, 2008 when it hosted Hartwick College. The Bearcats are now on a three-game unbeaten streak after defeating No. 26 Lafayette College, 1-0, and tying Colgate University, 1-1, at the Colgate Red Raider Classic. However, the result ends the Bearcats’ three-game winning streak against the Big Red.
Although no goals were scored, there were plenty of opportunities for both squads. Binghamton edged Cornell in shots taken 10-9, while Cornell had the advantage in corner kicks 6-3. All six of Cornell’s corners came in the second half. Binghamton head coach Paul Marco was satisfied with his team’s effort in the match.
‘I thought we played quite well,’ he said. ‘Cornell’s a pretty good team, a pretty hard team. I thought our guys came out and played pretty well in the first half. A little disappointed we didn’t get a goal earlier, but it was a great match, a good college environment. A couple of guys played pretty well; [sophomore] Adam Whitehead was very special on the field. He moved the ball well for us, created a lot of things. We’ve got some things we’ll need to clean up between now and Wednesday, but overall I was pretty pleased with the performance.’
The Bearcats have had a very difficult schedule up to this point, playing against five top-26 teams and two other competitive opponents. The non-conference schedule is all about preparing the team for America East play, and Marco feels his players will be well-equipped when they open conference play at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County on Saturday.
‘What a battle; [the Big Red] are very similar to some of our conference opponents,’ Marco said. ‘They are very good at the back, well organized, hard to break down. I thought it was a great tune-up. We’ve had a few of them ‘ Lafayette and Colgate were the same. I think our schedule is working out quite nicely for us.’
Redshirt-freshman goalkeeper Chris Hayen earned his second clean sheet in three matches, coming through with six saves for the Bearcats in his first-ever home match.
‘I was ecstatic,’ Hayen said about playing his first match at the Bearcats Sports Complex. ‘I walked out with a big smile on my face. I was happy, my first time on the pitch at home. I did what I had to do, kept a clean sheet. It sucks that we didn’t score, but I thought we did really well.’
One of Hayen’s saves came in the 55th minute, when a Cornell attacker shot the ball toward the upper part of the goal. Hayen, who is 6 feet 6 inches, made an acrobatic leap and tipped the ball over the crossbar, keeping Cornell off the scoreboard.
‘It was just an instinctive play,’ Hayen said regarding the save. ‘The kid shot it from about 8 yards out, and the only thing I could think of was just tip it over and be safe. It was a nil-nil game, second half, had to keep the clean sheet. So I just jumped up and tipped it over, I did what I could.’
Redshirt-freshman Tommy Klim, senior Kyle Manscuk, sophomore Austin Hughes and senior Josh Sailar did a good job on the back line minimizing quality chances for Cornell. Marco feels the players still have room to improve as a unit, but he liked what he saw from them for most of the match.
‘[The backs] have been coming together quite nicely,’ he said. ‘Each of them in their own right are pretty good at what they do. We’ve seen some development in that group as a whole. I still think they need to be a little bit better and a little sharper throughout the entire match. We did have a couple of lapses later in the match and Chris had to come up with some big saves.’
Junior and team captain Ryan Walter, who received his fifth yellow card of the season in the 114th minute, was glad to be back playing in front of the home fans. He was pleased with the atmosphere and is hopeful that their next home match will be an even better experience.
‘It feels great when people are singing and cheering,’ Walter said. ‘All the fans that came out were great tonight, so hopefully we see more of them out on Homecoming.’
Marco felt the players responded well to the home crowd. He too was delighted with the home environment.
‘I thought [the players were] maybe a little nervous in the warm-up, but overall pretty pleased. I thought the Hooligans were great. Great crowd today.’
Before the Bearcats begin conference play, they have another tune-up match scheduled for tomorrow at Niagara University. Last season they cruised to a 4-0 victory over the Purple Eagles, and are 4-1 all time against them. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.