Men's soccer suffers overtime loss

by Josh Koenig | 9/30/12 10:00pm

In a heartbreaking loss, the Big Green fell to Princeton University, 2-1, in overtime on the road on Saturday. Despite a valiant effort by Dartmouth goalkeeper Noah Cohen '14, the Big Green (3-5, 0-1 Ivy) came up short in its Ivy League opener, making this coming Saturday's home game against Yale University all the more important.

Barely a minute into overtime, the Tigers won a free kick in their defensive half and dumped the ball long down the touch line. Bringing the ball under control, Princeton forward Cameron Porter went on a run down the sideline, and cut the ball back into the box, where it bounced under goalkeeper Cohen and found its way into the net for the game-winning goal.

"I'm not quite sure if it was a pass or a shot," co-captain Teo Larsson-Sax '13 said.

Despite falling behind in the 18th minute after a goal from Princeton's sibling connection younger brother Thomas Sanner converted a feed from older brother Matt Sanner the Big Green soon equalized. Tucking away a bouncing ball in the box, Big Green substitute Patrick Murray '15 sent the equalizer into the back of the net in the 38th minute. Dartmouth, however, could not sustain its momentum into the second half.

"I watched the game on DVD as we traveled back, and I felt the game was a story of two different halves," head coach Jeff Cook said. "We played quite well in the first half, especially considering we were on the road, but I think in the second half, we became more tentative."

After a scoreless second half in which the Big Green had a few opportunities on the counter to take the lead notably nearly breaking through when Princeton goalkeeper Seth MacMillan was forced to sprint off his line to prevent Colin Heffron '15 from a breakaway opportunity the game went into overtime, during which the Big Green faced a familiar view. Having already played two overtime games this season, including a 2-1 loss to the University of Connecticut on the road and a double overtime win against Missouri State University in New Mexico, the Big Green is no stranger to pressure-filled moments.

Even with the experience, the Big Green struggled to maintain focus against a veteran Princeton team that returned nine starters from last season's campaign.

"I think we work very hard [in overtime]," Cohen said, "But when everyone is tired, it's hard to stay focused, and if someone switches off, then we find ourselves in a bad position."

Playing a golden-goal overtime format in which results often hinge more on luck than on consistent play, the Big Green found itself unlucky to return home with the losing result.

"We as a team are definitely as good as Princeton, if not better," Cohen said. "But sometimes the ball just has to bounce your way, and we're not catching any breaks."

While statistics can often be misleading in a sport that does not lend itself to conventional analysis, the Big Green was heavily outshot by Princeton, 17-7, and conceded nine corners while winning only two. Especially in a tight game, these extra opportunities proved to be the difference.

After opening its Ivy League schedule with a loss, the Big Green suffered a big blow to its league title chances.

"To win the Ivy League, you really can't lose two games, so that puts some pressure on us," Larsson-Sax said. "That being said, I definitely think [the title] is still a possibility."

With a highly competitive and fairly level playing field in the Ivy League this year, four or five wins could be enough to see the Big Green defend its title. Last year, Dartmouth needed four wins, one loss and two ties to capture the crown.

Reaching the end of a five-game road swing, which has lasted through most of September, the Big Green will travel to the University of Vermont on Wednesday before returning home to Burnham field to face Yale (3-4-3, 0-0-1 Ivy) on Saturday.

"We love being at Burnham." Larsson-Sax said. "The fans are like our 12th player, so we hope to get a good turnout this weekend."