Heading into Wednesday’s contest, the men’s soccer team had scored two goals in its first four games, all losses, and were coming off two tough 1-0 losses over the weekend. It only got worse Wednesday night.
Playing at newly renovated Reese Stadium for the first time after four road matches to begin the season, the Bulldogs’ offense was absent again as they dropped a 3-0 decision to Central Connecticut State to extend their losing to five to open the season.
“I don’t think we played to our potential at all and they definitely did play better than we did,” captain and midfielder Andy Shorten ’11 said.
Both teams started strong, creating opportunities on both ends of the field. But it was the Blue Devils (2-2) who got on the board first in the 27th minute when they caught the Eli defense by surprise. Central’s Terrell Whitting connected with Joel Diamand as they weaved through the defense and Diamand snuck a shot past Bulldog goalie Bobby Thalman ’13.
After the goal, the Elis were not in sync like they had been prior; the midfield struggled to connect with the offense as scoring opportunities became more and more rare.
“In conversations with their coaches that was the best they had played all season,” head coach Brian Tompkins said. “It was our intention that our pressure would create problems for them but they managed our pressure better than we managed theirs.”
After one last failed Central scoring opportunity, the Bulldogs escaped into halftime to regain composure down just one goal.
But the Blue Devils struck once again just six minutes into the half when Whitting capitalized on a Bulldog turnover in the midfield and beat Thalman. Visibly disheartened, the Bulldogs had trouble controlling the pace of the game. As the Blue Devils continued to connect, the Elis had problems finding each other’s feet.
“We got behind early and I feel that may have thrown off our game,” Thalman said.
But the end of the game brought a surge for the Bulldogs as they produced more composed plays and scoring opportunities than they had in the entire first half. Towards the end of the game when Shorten dribbled the ball up the left side, looking for teammates at the top of the box to receive his cross. Almost immediately after the ball left Shorten’s foot inside the box, it appeared to have hit the hand of a Blue Devil defender. The referees didn’t think so and shortly thereafter the Bulldogs allowed the third and final goal of the game in the 76th minute — Whitting’s second of the contest.
“There is no easy game especially in soccer when you never know when the game can change on one good shot,” Shorten said. “But they definitely played better than we expected.”
Despite getting off to a disappointing start so far this season, Tompkins remains optimistic about the capability of his team.
“When the results aren’t going your way it’s easy to take your eye off the road, but I have a lot of faith in our guys,” he said. “We’re not going to bury our heads here. We’re going to keep going.”
The Bulldogs next take the pitch Saturday at 7 p.m. against Sacred Heart at Reese Stadium.