Late in Saturday night’s game, senior midfielder and co-captain Nick Scott tried to dribble past a Cornell player, but was tackled off the ball. After he fell to the ground, he banged his fist on the field in frustration.
Despite holding one of the nation’s best offenses to a single goal, the men’s soccer team (4-8-4, 2-3-2 Ivy) once again could not get enough offense to get a good result and lost 1-0 to No. 14 Cornell (15-1, 6-1 Ivy).
“When you don’t put anything in the back of the net, you don’t really have too much to say,” head coach Kevin Anderson said.
“I thought we played the ball around nicely. There were some nice bits of possession, like we’ve shown all season,” Scott said. “But once again struggling to create good chances and goal scoring opportunities.”
With the loss, Columbia finishes fifth in the Ivy League with eight points, well behind fourth-place Princeton, which accumulated 14. Cornell clinched an outright Ivy title and may be selected for a first-round bye in the NCAA tournament.
The winning goal came from Big Red star striker Daniel Haber. In the 14th minute, midfielder Nico Nissl took a hard shot that was blocked, but caromed right to defender Jake Rinow, standing just outside the box. He played the ball back into the box for Haber, making a run behind the defense from the left side, and Haber tucked the ball into the net for his 18th goal.
The goal was especially frustrating because the Lions had a terrific opportunity to score just a couple of minutes earlier off a corner kick by junior forward Henning Sauerbier. After an initial header was blocked, the ball came to freshman midfielder Antonio Matarazzo, who corralled the ball with his back to the goal, turned, and shot. Although Cornell goalie Rick Pflasterer was out of position, he and a couple of his defenders were standing on the goal line and managed to block the shot.
“It was unfortunate, we had chances and it’s just a shame we conceded one right after it,” Scott said. “Had it been nil-nil we could have been in good position to carry on and see out a win.”
That was Columbia’s only quality chance. Sometimes, crosses were too low and blocked by the Big Red defense. Other times, crosses were too close to the goal and Pflasterer came out and caught the ball. A couple of times, Sauerbier and junior midfielder and co-captain David Najem were part of quick counterattacking sequences, but Sauerbier’s passes to send Najem in behind the defense were blocked.
Although the Lions had a possession advantage, Cornell capitalized on its throw-ins and the Lions’ mistakes. The Big Red was aggressive and used its speed advantage to help it run up a 15-6 lead in shots (6-2 on goal). The Big Red even had two goals called off. Off a throw-in, a Cornell player scored on a rebound, but was called for a foul that disallowed the goal. With a little under 10 minutes to play, Haber corralled a quick centering pass, turned and shot the ball past rookie goalie Kyle Jackson, but was called offside. Many other times, Columbia senior fullback Brendan O’Hearn headed the ball away from danger, and Jackson was aggressive in coming off his line to catch crosses and free kicks.
“To be fair to Cornell, they’re good at what they do. They’re a very opportunistic team,” Scott said. “You saw from the goal, it came out of nothing, and the lad is a good finisher, so he put it away.”
Anderson, although disappointed by the result, said he was happy with his five seniors in their final college game. Four of them played the full 90 minutes, while defender Will Young left the game at 78.
“We were able to get the five guys that will leave us a lot of minutes tonight, earned minutes, and we saw till the last second, they started their careers the way they ended them, which is giving everything that they have,” Anderson said. “So I’m really thankful to the five of them. We’ll miss them.”