By Canio Marasco
The Griffs ended last season with one true problem – goal scoring. This season, the narrative hasn’t changed. After a 1-3 start, Coach Dermot McGrane has been miffed by the Griffs’ lack of scoring touch.
In the Griffs’ first game of the season, they traveled to Binghamton University to play the Bearcats. Coach McGrane characterized the first forty-five minutes as “uncomfortable.” The Griffs were under heavy pressure for most of the first half and they conceded an early goal in the sixth minute. The Griffs were able to respond with a goal from junior Hakeem Milson, who tapped in a perfect pass from sophomore Melvin Blair. Despite this fight back, the Griffs conceded another goal in the thirty-sixth minute. The Griffs looked like the more dangerous team in the second half, creating several chances, but in a trend that would become common, the Griffs couldn’t finish.
Coach McGrane stated of the loss to the Bearcats, “[Goal scoring] is one of our biggest issues right now. We brought in eight forwards, but we’re going to have to look for scoring in a number of different areas. Even our two center backs should be doing more on set-pieces because they are so tall. But we have a number of player through the midfield and up top who can score, it’s going to be a lot of players getting smaller numbers.”
Outside of Blair and Milson, the Griffs don’t have many goal-scoring threats, hence Coach McGrane stating that goals will have to come from many different areas this season.
In their second game of the season, the Griffs hosted the University of Buffalo Bulls. Much like their game against the Bearcats, the Griffs produced many high quality opportunities. Despite their 18-11 edge in shots, the Griffs lost 1-0. The goal was against the run of play and rather controversial. The Bulls were able to pounce on a rebound, which appeared to be controlled with the aid of a UB player’s arm. The Griffs were unable to bounce back from this deflating goal, and again couldn’t capitalize on their chances.
“We’ve outplayed every team so far this season. UB was a bizarre one. They didn’t have many chances, maybe only one. The goal they actually scored on was a foul. I thought it was a handball,” Coach McGrane stated. “But really it’s on us. We had six or seven quality chances to score and we couldn’t finish.”
The Griffs picked up their first win of the season against the Incarnate Word Cardinals. The Griffs outplayed the Cardinals in the first half but couldn’t find the back of the net. In the second half, however, the Griffs finally broke through with a goal. The tally came from junior Mitch Cancilla, on a cross from Blair. The goal wasn’t only the game winner, as the Griffs prevailed 1-0, but it was the first for Cancilla as a Griff.
Coach McGrane stated the Griffs were “fortunate” to win the game. He felt they weren’t clinical enough, and should have had five goals. He also took the time to highlight the play of midfielder Melvin Blair. Coach McGrane stated, “Any time Blair touches the ball he’s dangerous and has been every game that we’ve played. I think he actually played better in some of the earlier games, as he was carrying an injury against Incarnate Word.”
Despite the praise of his coach, Blair had a completely different outlook on his season so far. He stated, “I’m not happy with my play so far.” Blair, who has a team-leading two assists in the season, continued, “I should have six goals already and probably four or five assists. My hope this season is to score twenty goals and I’m far from that, but I think that I can achieve that.”
The drive that Blair possesses is what the Griffs need this season as they look for a more consistent source of goal scoring. Even if Coach McGrane is prepared to look for scoring from a number of players, having a playmaker in the middle of the pitch to catalyze the offense is something the Griffs could really use.
In the Griffs last game, they played host to the Stony Brook Seawolves. Despite finding a goal in their previous game against the Cardinals, the Griffs fell back into their scoring woes. The Seawolves were able to tally a goal in the tenth minute, putting the onus on the Griffs to find an equalizer. As seen previously, the Griffs controlled the game, outshooting the Seawolves 21-11, but were still unable to find the back of the net.
When asked about the Griffs’ inability to score, Coach McGrane jokingly stated, “I was hoping you had the answer for me.” He continued, “It’s working hard in practice. The only problem is you can’t replicate the action of a game in practice. So even though you can [score] in training, that doesn’t mean you can do it in a game. But, aside from that, it’s keeping the attitude of the players positive. We know we’re playing well; we need to believe that if we’re playing at a high level, we’ll start to win.”
The Griffs’ next game is against the Bucknell Bisons, who are 1-2-1. The Bisons have scored four goals this season while conceding eight. They have allowed fifty shots this season, meaning the Griffs should be able to produce offense. The question is if they can finally find their scoring touch.
Looking to the future, Blair stated, “It’s not like we’re not creating chances; we are. We just have to be more confident in front of the goal and put those chances away. I think if we work on that we can turn around the season and start winning games.”