Following a resounding 3-0 win against Lehigh, the Stony Brook men’s soccer team entered Monday’s game against Fairleigh Dickinson searching for their second consecutive win and a .500 record. However, they left LaValle Stadium with a 0-0 draw after a gritty 110-minute match that was not decided until the final buzzer.
The Seawolves attacked early and often, despite the Knights putting a significant amount of defensive pressure on their midfielders and forwards. Stony Brook not only managed to be effective in creating scoring opportunities, attempting six shots at the half, but they also controlled possession for the greater part of the half.
The first half attack was lead by junior midfielder Alejandro Fritz, who had two close range shots, one blocked, one saved, which would have changed the complexion the match had they moved ever so slightly.
As the second half opened the Seawolves adjusted to Fairleigh Dickinson’s defensive pressure, hoping to create and capitalize on their scoring opportunities.
“I think the guys settled down a bit, they tried to press us, get on the ball. So we spoke about that, and try to play behind that first line of pressure,” coach Ryan Anatol said regarding any adjustments the team made at halftime and in the second half.
Those adjustments proved to be effective in the second half, where the Seawolves were able to create even more opportunities, despite controlling the ball far less than they did in the first half.
The more controlled and paced style of play that the Seawolves employed after halftime allowed junior midfielder Martin Giordano to find his footing and put the Fairleigh Dickinson defense on its heels. Giordano finished the half with two more shots, one of them being a booming strike from about 20 yards that was saved by a diving Matthew Weigner’s fingertips.
But as the match wore on, both Stony Brook and Fairleigh Dickinson could not capitalize on the abundance of scoring opportunities that each team created. The lack of finishing was something that Anatol noted, and looks to improve on.
“15 shots is a decent number, but it’s the quality of the shots,” Anatol said. “I thought we had some decent ones today, but again, we just need to get better in the final third, sharper.”
However, things picked up toward the end of the second half, and the Seawolves found themselves in trouble 89 minutes into the game when Fairleigh Dickinson managed to get off three shots from inside the box. The most dangerous of the bunch was a point blank shot by Godfred Baafi off a rebound from a previous shot. Luckily, redshirt freshman goalkeeper Tom McMahon was able to move his arms as he was diving to corral the ball in.
It was a frazzling sequence, one that McMahon had mentally prepared himself for.
“[I was] Not really getting challenged much. I just gotta stay mentally ready throughout 90 minutes, for when you’re called to make the big save, you just gotta be ready, and tonight I was.”
McMahon’s last-second heroics forced extra time, and in extra time, the Seawolves struggled to find their spots and capitalize on attacking opportunities, getting outshot 5-1 by Fairleigh Dickinson. Although the Knights had the edge in shots during extra time, the Seawolves’ defense clamped down and kept the score even.
The Seawolves were not able to come away with their second straight victory. Instead, they came away with their third scoreless outing in four games. Nevertheless, the coaches and players feel that there were a lot of positive takeaways from this game, that they can use moving forward.
“We just need to continue to create chances, I feel that this is a team that is dangerous going forward,” Anatol said. “We know it won’t happen overnight, but we feel that we had the better of the chances, and hopefully if we continue to do that, we will score some goals.” McMahon also echoed the optimistic sentiments of his coach.
“We were solid defensively, we were solid in the middle of the ball, we’re moving the ball, we played the way we wanted to play,” McMahon said. “We dominated in every category except the score.”
Stony Brook now sets its eyes on Dallas, Texas, where they will face the University of Memphis in their first game of the SMU Invitational. The Seawolves follow that invitational with road games against Rhode Island and Sacred Heart, before returning to LaValle stadium on Sept. 28 to face Northeastern.