Menís Soccer Rolls Binghamton 5-1, Earns First Round Bye
ALBANY, N.Y. – Celebrating senior night on the final day of the 2016 regular season, the University at Albany men’s soccer team (10-5-2, 4-2-1 AE) put on an offensive showcase against conference rival Binghamton (7-5-6, 1-3-3 AE), exploding for a season-high five goals and defeating the Bearcats by a score of 5-1.
“The seniors have been part of a transformation,” said head coach Trevor Gorman. “When they arrived we were just moving into this beautiful new facility, we didn’t have a ton of tradition or history of success. They’ve been through the wars of the first two years when we had to earn our stripes, when we came close but didn’t quite get there to now when we have two consecutive 10-win seasons and two consecutive byes into the semifinals of the America East tournament. It’s been a really good process for them and something they should feel proud of.”
Not only did the Great Danes win, earning their second consecutive 10-win season, but they also earned the second seed in the upcoming America East tournament, and the first-round bye that comes with it.
UAlbany had seemingly squandered its good position atop the America East standings, entering the game in fourth place in the conference. Earlier this season they shared a two-game lead with UMass Lowell. In recent weeks, the gap had narrowed considerably, to the point where New Hampshire and Stony Brook leapfrogged UAlbany in the standings, and where the top five teams were separated by as few as three points.
By virtue of a Vermont victory over New Hampshire, the Great Danes jumped back into the second seed. Stony Brook defeated Hartford to take the top overall seed and home field advantage throughout the tournament. UMass Lowell, which is in its final year of postseason ineligibility due to NCAA reclassification rules, finished the 2016 season as regular season champions.
The Great Danes got off to a quick start when senior defender Bernardo Mattos scored two minutes into the first half off a header from Daniel Krutzen’s corner kick for his first goal of the season, and first goal in two years.
“Scoring on senior night means a lot,” Mattos said. “I tried really hard to score last year but it didn’t happen for me, so to have this goal come at the end of the season, I’m really happy about it.”
The score remained 1-0 until the 40th minute, when senior forward Jonathan Interiano received a through ball to the middle of the Binghamton box, which he netted to the right side.
“For anyone who scores, whether you’re a starter or coming off the bench, you’re never down about a goal,” said Interiano. “Everyone wants to score. Whether your playing for the whole game or are just in for 10 minutes, it’s a great feeling.”
The score at halftime was 2-0 in favor of UAlbany.
The Great Danes started the second half even more quickly than they did the first. Junior forward Afonso Pinheiro was the beneficiary of a broken play in the Binghamton box, earning his 10th goal of the season just 13 seconds after the second half kickoff.
“Everything went right for us,” Gorman said. “When you score quickly in both halves it’s obviously the ideal way to start every 45 minutes of soccer. That was a positive for us. I thought we were taking what they gave us, we were looking to be dangerous, to get at their back four, to create shots and service opportunities, and we scored some good goals.”
Sophomore forward Nico Solabarrieta scored the Great Danes’ final two goals. First, he was set up by Pinheiro on a broken play, beating the Binghamton goalkeeper in the low right corner of the box before coolly easing the ball into the now open net. Next, sophomore midfielder Carlos Clark played the ball across to Solabarrieta along the perimeter of the Binghamton box. Solabarrieta ripped a shot from the 18 into the net for his second goal and UAlbany’s fifth goal of the night. Solabarrieta’s two goals came within two minutes of one another.
Binghamton made it on to the scoreboard in the 89th minute, successfully converting a penalty kick. The Bearcats outshot the Great Danes 11-9 for the game.
After struggling to gel during the early part of the season, the Great Danes have been firing on all cylinders of late, from the defense, through the midfield, and up to the forwards. The turning point seemingly came after the 5-3 loss to Boston College.
“We kind of regrouped,” said senior captain Keith Traut, “and we needed that. We all came together, we had to sort it out, positionally, where things went wrong. We don’t let five goals in on us, that’s not what we do. We can’t let it happen again.”
In 10 games since that loss, the Great Danes have allowed just seven goals while scoring 23.
“I think the confidence in everyone shot up,” Interiano said. “We realized we had nothing to lose at one point. Coming off of last year where we think we should have gone a little bit further than we did, it just clicked. We all want it so badly. From the defense to the forwards we’re all connected right now and confidence is the biggest part.”
“We’ve been playing together for a while, since my freshman year,” Mattos said. “That helps a lot, because we know each other really well. It brings confidence to the group. We are an old group now, we have a lot of seniors, and that helps a lot to bring the team together.”
“It’s definitely the experience,” Traut said of the defense. “We’ve been playing together for three or four years now. We all know how each other likes to play, so it’s great to have two or three other guys who know exactly how you play, who you can play with any day no matter what.”
Because of the first-round bye, the Great Danes will not play again until Wednesday, November 9, when they will host the winner of Saturday’s quarterfinal match between Vermont and Binghamton. Top-seed Stony Brook awaits the winner of New Hampshire and Hartford.
“We knew if we won the game we would play at home,” Gorman said. “We didn’t know when, but we knew that we would, so we just focused on that. We know whoever we play is a very good team. This league is one of the strongest in the country this year. There are no easy games so you might as well play them at home.”
“We’ll take the extra couple days to rest and recover,” Gorman continued. “It’s really about getting the bodies as healthy as possible for the next match. We also want to work and try to get better because even though it’s late in the season you still want to get better every single day.”
For the remainder of the America East tournament, any opponent the Great Danes will face will be a repeat matchup.
“Certainly you can relate back to the exact matchup with that team this season, but teams are different. If we played a team three or four weeks ago, they might be different now just like we might be different now. So basically you study how they’re playing, how they’ve played, and you look at your own team and you try to go out with the best plan to get a result.”
“That’s the only thing that’s important, that next game,” said Traut. “We’re not thinking about five games from now, or the conference final, we’re thinking about the next game.”
“We know that no matter who we play, it’s going to be a really difficult 90 minutes, maybe more, to earn the right to play another game,” Gorman continued. “And right now, at this time of year, you’re just thinking ‘win to play another game.’”
Kickoff is scheduled for Wednesday, November 9 at 7:00 p.m.