The Binghamton University men’s soccer team needs to get its act together. Fast.
That may seem a bit harsh. But sometimes, the blunt truth is necessary.
The Bearcats have had a relatively tough non-conference schedule up to this point, playing two nationally ranked opponents in West Virginia University and The Ohio State University in addition to a strong Bucknell University team. In fact, they beat the Bison 3-1 to get off on the right foot this year.
But following that terrific jump out of the gate, BU has gone just 2-3 in its five games since. One can argue they could have taken each of those games, too.
It all started against West Virginia on Sept. 2, just one week after Binghamton’s opening win at Bucknell. Despite leaping ahead on an early goal, the Bearcats allowed West Virginia to retaliate with two goals of its own before the end of the first half. Scoring remained at a stand still for the remainder of the game and the Mountaineers escaped what could have been a shocking upset by a score of 2-1.
And it was more of the same against the Buckeyes nine days later on Sept. 11. Junior forward Jake Keegan netted the game’s first goal just four minutes into the match, and for most of the contest it seemed as if Binghamton would be able to hold on. But from the 74th minute on, the BU defense allowed the game-tying and game-winning goals.
Now, I’ll be honest. My soccer knowledge and experience with the game is strictly outlined by what I’ve learned from three sources: the World Cup, covering this team and EA SPORTS’ FIFA for Xbox 360. And when I was about 10, I accidentally hit myself in the face with a soccer ball. But really, that’s it. So maybe it’s just the not-so-spectacularly-knowledgeable spectator in me, but I think no matter what the sport, when you’ve got a lead through about three-fourths of a match, you have to do anything you can to hold on to it. But again, take that last sentence with a grain of salt, understanding that I’ve never played a game of soccer in my life outside of camp.
And I mean recently.
As a counselor.
With fourth grade campers.
In any case, this article isn’t as much about losing those WVU and OSU games as it is about the most recent two.
Finally playing at home for the first time this season, the Bearcats entered this weekend’s home tournament with a 2-2 record. With two games against two beatable opponents, a weekend sweep would really have, excusing the pun, gotten the ball rolling on this 2011 campaign.
But the Bearcats dropped the first game to Central Connecticut State University 1-0 on — yet again — a late goal. On Sunday, though, it was Binghamton’s chance to pounce late in the game, as a back-and-forth affair between Binghamton and Rider University saw its only goal come off the foot of senior captain Ryan Walter, which Walter himself later admitted was not an attempted shot, but rather was intended as a pass to the opposite side of the box where Keegan stood wide open.
Keegan’s breakout season and offensive firepower has accounted for nearly half of the team’s total goals (he’s netted four of the team’s 10) this season. He has been a steady force too, tallying a goal in four separate games, though the team is 2-2 in games where he scores. So my point is not that he’s been singlehandedly carrying the team, but that he can only do so much by himself. And as head coach Paul Marco has said, there are 10 to 12 players on the roster who he feels can put the ball in the back of the net — it’s just a matter of getting those goals at the right time, perhaps picking up the slack in a game during which Keegan struggles or simply when his efforts aren’t enough.
Moreover, the team’s goalkeeper position has been in flux all season long. Sophomore Chris Hayen seemed to be the clear choice, but an injury sustained early on opened the door for fellow sophomore Anthony Sokalski to join the conversation. Sokalski was given time in net as Hayen recovered, and Marco has been so pleased with his development that that the team’s game-to-game starter has yet to be decided with conference play looming and set to kick off for Binghamton next Saturday night.
And according to Marco, the team will continue to play its best 11, whether it’s composed of freshmen or seniors, experienced or not. Marco is a confident man who knows his team well, but a question mark in goal from game to game does not portray it to the untrained eye.
Until one of those goalies makes a strong push to secure the starting job and goals consistently come from players besides Keegan, I continue to wonder if this team will be considered a force to be reckoned with when America East play comes around.