For the first time this season, the Stony Brook men’s soccer team has lost back-to-back matches.
The Seawolves came out flat all-around in a 3-1 loss to the Hartford Hawks on Saturday, Oct. 2 at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, as the offense could not get anything going against Hartford’s defense while their own defense could not stop Hartford’s offense.
Hartford, who entered without a win in conference play, was seen as an underdog but came off a 1-0 win over Dartmouth on Tuesday. Coming off a 1-0 loss at Binghamton last Saturday, Stony Brook was hoping for a bounceback against an inferior opponent at home, but could not deliver.
The match was tightly contested in the first half, but Hartford was very aggressive. The Hawks were able to get past Stony Brook’s defense early as they set themselves up with two shot attempts within the first four minutes. The first one was saved by junior goalkeeper Edmond Kaiser and the next one was off target.
However, it would be a sign of things to come, as Stony Brook’s defense was carved through all game by the Hawks offense. Hartford would eventually draw first blood with just under four minutes left, as freshman midfielder Olivier Sylvain scored his first career goal, sending it past Kaiser and in for a Hartford goal.
Stony Brook made things interesting, as with two seconds left on the clock, sophomore forward Aki Solvason was fouled and set up with his first penalty kick of the year. He sent it on target to the left, but a full-extension dive by Hawks sophomore goalkeeper Rotem Fadida saved the day and preserved Hartford’s lead. That was the turning point in the game, as it wound up being the last time Stony Brook really had a chance.
“Their keeper put them in a good position to win the game by saving the penalty,” head coach Ryan Anatol said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “If we go into halftime 1-1, it’s a different game.”
Trailing 1-0 at the half, Stony Brook came out more aggressive, doubling their shot total from the first half in the second half. However, their defense got weaker as the game went on. Six minutes and 50 seconds into the second half, sophomore forward Sean Towey picked up a yellow card and gave Hartford a penalty kick. Hawks senior midfielder Tomer Drimmer fooled Kaiser and converted the penalty for his second goal of the year to put Hartford up 2-0.
The wheels fell off after that, as Stony Brook could not get out of their own way. With 23:57 remaining, Hartford extended their lead to 3-0 on a goal from junior midfielder Demario Cameron. It wound up being a very rough game for Kaiser, who suffered his second 3-goal-surrendered performance of the year, and it dropped his save percentage to .711 on the season. The entire defense did not help him, allowing eight shots on goal in 16 shots.
“Defending in and around the box wasn’t the best,” Anatol said. “We gave up the penalty kick. We gave up a goal off of a corner kick. But again, that’s the difference in the game tonight. You’ve got to put those chances away and you’ve got to keep the other team off the board.”
Frustration set in for Stony Brook as the game went on, leading to several yellow cards and other miscues, including one by graduate midfielder and team captain Gabriel Fernandes, who was visibly frustrated with the referee.
With 4:02 left in the game, the Seawolves put up some window-dressing on a goal from Fernandes. It was his second goal of the season, coming off of an assist from senior midfielder Trausti Birgisson for the final change in the scoreboard. Too little, too late.
This game was the sloppiest one of the year for the Seawolves, who shot 1-for-15 from the field. Only five shots were on goal, the team missed a penalty kick and also put up their worst defensive performance.
The penalty kick has hurt the Seawolves at times this year, as opponents are 3-for-3 when kicking penalties against Stony Brook. Stony Brook noticeably lost to Hofstra 1-0 on a penalty kick in late August.
“Goals win matches,” Anatol said. “Overall, I thought the play was pretty even in the first half … Overall I thought the play was okay, but again, goals win matches. I’m a little bit disappointed with the goals we gave up.”
When asked about any positives that can be taken from this game, Anatol stated that they needed to “look at the film and respond.”
The Seawolves (5-4, 1-2 AE) have now lost three of their last four and have the same conference record as Hartford, a school with an athletic program dropping down to Division III by 2023.
“The next three points are as valuable as these three points, so we’ve got to move on,” Anatol said.
Stony Brook’s next chance to grab those three points will come on Saturday, Oct. 9 against the UMBC Retrievers. The match begins a stretch of an intense four games in 11 days. It is officially go-time for the Seawolves.