Some games are just more important than others.
And for the Binghamton University men’s soccer team, one of those matches is tomorrow night. In line with the annual Homecoming weekend, the Bearcats are set to take on the Adelphi University Panthers at 7 p.m. at the Bearcats Sports Complex.
The Homecoming match is generally the most popular regular season soccer game attendance-wise. Last year, 2,240 fans showed up to witness Binghamton extend its unbeaten streak to six matches with a 1-0 win over the University of Vermont, and one year earlier, 2,604 patrons set a Complex record for attendance that still stands today.
“It’s always unbelievable,” head coach Paul Marco said. “One of the highlights of the day is the match, so there’ll certainly be a buzz in the locker room.”
Among the 2,000 fans expected to attend Saturday’s game will be about 25 men’s soccer alumni who have played under Marco in the years since he came to Binghamton in 2002.
“It’s a special day for our guys,” Marco continued. “It’s a day that the focus is our Homecoming and bringing our alums back in.”
But to impress the players of the past in tomorrow night’s game, the current Bearcats will have to play better than they have recently. Alternating wins and losses throughout the entirety of this season, the team’s record now stands at 3-4.
The result of Binghamton’s most recent game, a 4-0 blowout loss at Cornell University, was not the way the team wanted to head into a game carrying the importance that the homecoming match does.
Though neck-and-neck through the first 20 minutes of play, the game quickly got out of hand as the Big Red took a 2-0 lead to the locker room.
The first of those Cornell goals came on a corner kick as sophomore Stephen Reisert directed the ball into the box toward 6-foot-5-inch sophomore Patrick Slogic, who headed it into the back of the net.
“[Slogic is] a center back who comes forward on their set pieces and basically they just delivered the ball to him and he headed it home,” Marco recalled.
And 13 minutes later it was Reisert’s turn as he capitalized on a cross from senior Scott Caldwell and headed his second goal of the season into the net. Following halftime, the Big Red continued their attack and netted two more goals to seal the victory in blowout fashion, 4-0.
“Our back four isn’t making the game as difficult as our strikers are seeing against the opponent’s back four,” Marco said. “So our defenders have to be smarter and harder … We’re making the game way too easy for our opponent, and if we solve that piece of it we’ll start to see less opportunities for [them].”
Despite beginning its season with nine goals through its first four games, Binghamton has scored just one goal in its three games since, something Marco attributes to opponents’ evolving strategies.
“The last couple of opponents we’ve played [have kept] four players back all the time, and when you do that you tend to not concede goals,” he said. “They’ve been pretty athletic and keyed in on [junior] Jake [Keegan] a little bit. [Against Central Connecticut State University, he] always had two players near him and sometimes there were three or four players near him.”
Keegan’s offensive firepower has led the Bearcats this season, but Marco was quick to insist that good defense on his top scorer will not doom his team offensively.
“We’re creating the opportunities, we just didn’t finish them in the last few games,” he said.
Marco has also discussed making changes to his lineup in order to enable his team to convert on those opportunities.
“We’ve now gone three games where we’ve struggled a bit,” he said. “I stayed with a couple of guys for a couple of games and they haven’t responded as well as they need to, so I think you might see a few new faces on the field on Saturday.”
Binghamton has played Adelphi once in its history. In 2001, the Panthers manhandled BU en route to a 5-0 blowout in Garden City, N.Y. This year, AU is 1-4 and 0-2 on the road.
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. tomorrow following the annual Homecoming tailgate outside of the Events Center.