If their preseason is any indication, the UB Men's Soccer team looks to be in pretty good shape for the 2014 season. After 7-0 and 5-0 wins against decidedly lesser competition, the Bulls kept the ball rolling tonight against the University of Rochester Yellow Jackets with a 2-0 victory.
Rochester is by most accounts a top-5 team in all of Division III, and they came to play tonight. Playing a physical, high energy game with a high defensive line, Rochester was able to win a lot of 50-50 balls and keep the pressure on the UB defense for long stretches in the first half. Though the difference between the teams wasn't significant, UB went into the break on their heels a bit, able to possess and move the ball but unable to get the same quality chances that the Yellow Jackets were managing.
UB played much of the game in a standard 4-4-2 formation, with forwards Abdulla Al-Kalisy and Russell Cicerone commanding attention up top and wings Marcus Hanson and Sean Young moving up without much hesitation. For much of the first half, however, UB was only able to generate offense from long balls over the top of the Rochester midfield, which continually won 50-50 balls and pressed into the UB side. While the teams were relatively even in possession, Rochester was able to generate a lot more pressure deep in UB's end than the Bulls were able to counter with.
UR holds a top-5 ranking in all of D3, and it shows. They've already beat Bona this preseason and are controlling play against UB. 30'— Bull Run (@UBBullRun) August 23, 2014
At the same time, UB's defense held thanks to an extremely vocal back line. While the men don't quite have the shutdown power the women exhibited Friday evening, freshman goalie Cameron Hogg was loud and audible to the entire stadium for the entire half, directing not only his backline but even the midfielders and Cicerone and Al-Kalisy up top.
In truth, Hogg was only forced to make one especially difficult save in the first half, despite the Rochester pressure, when in the 25th minutes the Yellow Jackets earned a corner and the freshman from New Zealand pushed the shot over the bar. In the 37th minute the Yellow Jackets got another clear chance on net but rocketed a shot over the bar. UB did manage some momentum at the end of the half, as sophomore Russell Cicerone earned two corner kicks and a free kick himself in the final five minutes.
0 0 at the half for @BullsMensSoccer in their exhibition v Rochester. UB slowly built more momentum through the half.— Bull Run (@UBBullRun) August 23, 2014
There's no other way to put it: UB came out of the second half like gangbusters. Just moments after the break, junior Marcus Hanson sent in a cross that Fox Slotemaker was able to head down for Austin Place to punch in.
While UB stepped it up coming out of the break, both teams were playing at a higher pace in the first ten minutes out of the break, For UB, that meant much higher pressure on Rochester's defense and more precise play in the midfield, while Rochester was able to capitalize on the space between Buffalo's midfielders and backlines and spring some breakaways early on. Waleed Cassis, who replaced Hogg in net, made two key saves in the 51st and 52nd minutes. On the night, Rochester outshot the Bulls by a wide, wide margin and had a half dozen high-quality chances, but couldn't manage to get one into the Bull's net.
Just as it looked like UR was going to capitalize on the Bulls' D, however, Buffalo was able to strike again. Once again Slotemaker was able to head down a cross, and once again Austin Place put it in the back of the net. There were still 25 minutes to play, but the rest of the game passed pretty quickly. Rochester naturally turned up the pressure, but a series of subs in UB's midfield progressively strengthened the defense and Rochester was unable to score in the last 20 minutes despite a number of corner kicks.
in the end, the 2-0 victory means an undefeated and unscored-upon preseason for the Bulls, who roll full steam ahead into the regular season next Friday in San Diego.
- As long as the Bulls are able to maintain possession through the midfield, they'll have little trouble generating scoring chances from their forwards. Cicerone and Al-Kalisy roamed freely from sideline to sideline for the entire game, and both were able to put on bursts of speed followed by extreme finesse that embarrassed the UR back line. At the same time, wings Marcus Hanson and Sean Young were quick to step up and join the front line. In Hanson the Bulls have a big physical player who can maintain possession in a crowd, while Young was able to find space and force Rochester to cover three or four threats at once.
- I need a special bullet to talk about Abdulla Al-Kalisy. The freshman didn't score today, but with all of our attention on Cicerone and Hanson after the FC Buffalo season, he quietly potted FIVE goals in the preseason. Take it from me - the kid can absolutely fly. Opposing defenses are not going to be able to key in on Cicerone this year, and even if they don't, Al-Kalisy is going to make them pay.
- UB seems to be in good shape in net. Cameron Hogg and Waleed Cassis split time in net, but both made key saves and were vocal captains of the defense.
- It's only the beginning of Stu Riddle's second season as Head Coach, but his imprint on the team is evident. UB's starting 11 featured a whopping four freshman and six sophomores. Only Marcus Hanson represented the upperclassmen among the starters. If this isn't the year for UB, it's only the first in a serious run for this core of young talent.
- Man of the Match, of course, goes to Austin Place. The sophomore scored both goals from the right wingback position as he stepped up in set pieces and on crosses. Neither score would have happened, though, without the head of Fox Slotemaker. One of the tallest players on UB's team, Slotemaker reminds you of the LA Galaxy's Omar Gonzalez, a defensive force who's valuable in front of the net just because he can get higher than everyone else.