For the Big Green men's soccer team, Homecoming weekend could mean two things. It could be a turning point when the Big Green finally find the intangible they've been missing up to this point, and start to win. Or it might not.
Dartmouth's opponent this weekend, the Big Red of Cornell, is quite literally the team Dartmouth should be. With a 7-3 record, 3-1 in the Ivy League, Cornell has been storming through its schedule. The Big Green on the other hand are a disappointing 1-6-2 overall with a 1-2-1 Ivy League record.
Some might already be counting Dartmouth out, but they shouldn't just yet. While Dartmouth was playing national powerhouses like Stanford and Cal Berkley, Cornell had it's hands full with lightweights like Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Cornell only beat FDU 1-0. If you look at the teams both have played, Dartmouth fell to Princeton 1-2, while Cornell lost to the Tigers 1-3. Cornell triumphed over Brown 1-0 in overtime while Dartmouth lost 0-1 to the Bears.
Both teams have only lost by more than a goal once. In overtime, Cornell has a better record at 1-1 but Dartmouth's 0-1-2 overtime record includes a scoreless tie with the University of Pennsylvania and a 2-2 tie at Cal.
The mitigating factor is that Cornell didn't need overtime to help them handle the Quakers. They beat Penn 2-0
Turning to offense, Cornell has proven it can score. As a team the Big Red has 17 goals while its opponents have only 10. As of October 20, the Big Green had only seven goals all season.
Cornell has four players with three goals, Dartmouth has zero. Although Coach Fran O'Leary has said that any one of his players can score, the key to the Big Green offense seems to be Nick Magnuson '01.
Magnuson scored in the team's only victory of the season and scored the team's only goal in their overtime loss to Boston University. Other key players are co-captains Mike Lewis '00 and Jamie Hozack '00, who is recently back from injury.
Brad Christof '01, Dan Markman '02 and Dougie Polwart '02 have also played well at times.
Defensively, Mike Abbate '01 has been the mainstay of the Dartmouth defense. In a season where five of the Big Green's six losses have been by one goal, it's hard to say that Abbate and the rest of the Big Green defense hasn't been doing it's job.
In goal, the Big Green will have Ben Gebre-Medhin '02 to turn away shots. Although his 1.67 goals per against average is respectable, it pales in comparison to Cornell goalie Dan Demaine's 0.42 goals against average.
If history plays any part in Sunday's outcome, it's still too close to call. Dartmouth has been playing Cornell since 1930 and the overall series record is 24-24-4.
Recent history is no help either. In 1997, then-number 13 Dartmouth defeated the Big Red 2-0. In 1998 the Big Green lost to Cornell 2-1 in overtime.
It seems that Dartmouth is standing at a crossroads of its season. Even though the team has remained optimistic and played hard all season, it's tough to keep going, loss after heartbreaking loss.
Now is as good a time as any to start salvaging a season that is slipping away.