By Canio Marasco
After a tumultuous 2-4 start in which the Griffs Men’s Soccer Team had a tough time finding goals, the team has rebounded with two wins as they edge closer to the beginning of conference play.
The Griffs hosted the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, and were able to pick up their third win of the season. The Griffs, a team that has squandered most of their plentiful opportunities this season, were able to capitalize on an early corner. Senior center back Thomas Teupen was able to nod in a back post cross for the goal. The Bonnies, a young team, have also produced very minimal offense. After the early goal, strong defense and the upper hand in possession led the Griffs to a rather easy win.
The Griffs’ only goal against the Bonnies came off a set-piece. Despite having several tall players on the team, this was merely the Griffs’ third goal from a corner or free kick. Two of these goals were scored by Teupen, a six-foot-four-inch center back. Despite having a total of six outfield players who are six-foot or taller, the Griffs have scored a relatively small amount of goals from set-pieces. The shear amount of tall players on the team presents a nightmare of a match-up for most opponents, but they simply haven’t capitalized on their fifty-three corners.
“We want to score more from set pieces. Obviously we have two center backs that are big and strong, but we also have Hakeem Milson and Mo Kretschmer who are also in the six-foot range. We’re tough to match up against height wise, so it was nice to see a goal against St. Bonaventure.” Coach McGrane, joking about the team’s inconsistent scoring continued, “Really, we need to get as many as we possibly can.”
The overarching issue, besides just set-pieces, has been the Griffs’ inability to find a consistent scoring threat. The team, through eight games, has only scored seven goals. Of these seven goals, six different players have scored. Teupen is the only player on the team with more than one goal this season. Last year, Melvin Blair provided the Griffs with a steady stream of goals. However, this season the Griffs haven’t had a large contributor in any category.
Coach McGrane, on trying to game plan without knowing who could provide offense, said, “We’ve only scored seven goals on the season, and six players on the team have scored, so going into games I know that we have a couple players who have the capability to score. I see the scoring every day in practice, and I know it will start to show up in games.”
The Griffs were able to pick up their fourth win of the season against the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils. The Griffs outlasted the Blue Devils in an overtime thriller. After a scoreless back-and-forth first half, the Blue Devils opened up the scoring in the 52 minute. The Griffs answered back quickly with a goal from Melvin Blair. The game would be forced into overtime, where center back Alex Grattarola was able to score in the 93 minute, ultimately securing the victory for the Griffs.
The Griffs two goals matched their best goal production of the season. Coach McGrane, on why the team was able to find more scoring, stated, “What we’ve been aiming for is getting ourselves into more dangerous positions every game. So we’ve been working a lot on getting penetrating passes through the back four. Rather than taking a 25 yard shot, we’ll be taking a ten yard shot, which is a much better position to score.”
Over the past couple weeks, Coach McGrane has repeatedly stated that the defense has been fine, and at some point, the offense will find their stride. The Griffs have continued to limit the chances of their opponents while finally finding the back of the net. They have only given up seven goals this season on a total of eighty-seven shots. The offense, which has often taken over games with possession and has totaled 137 shots this season, is starting to catch-up to the defense’s play.
The Griffs’ next game is against the defending MAAC champions, the Rider Broncs, who have started the season 4-2-0. The Broncs’ two defeats came in their last two games, which were against Princeton and LIU Brooklyn. The Broncs’ offense has been adequate, as they’ve totaled ten goals on the season. Their leading goal scorer is freshman forward Clement Bourret, who has scored three goals and totaled four points this season. Much like the Griffs, their strength is the defense, which has only allowed six goals this season.
Coach McGrane, on the Griffs’ progression this season, stated, “As I’ve said before, we know we’re playing well. We aren’t giving up many goals, we’re actually under [one] goal [per] game, which is a great ratio for the Division I level. So all of that is good and we’ve especially been creating more chances. But, above all, we’re not trying to make the scoring a big mental block for us; we know that if we do the right thing, we’ll get the results.”