After winning a high-scoring affair against Central Connecticut State on Friday night, the Stony Brook men’s soccer team’s high-flying offense sputtered for much of the game at LaValle Stadium against Bryant on Sunday, playing the Bulldogs to a hard-fought 2-1 win.
The Seawolves (4-4) were firing on all cylinders on Friday, scoring four goals against the visitors. But on Sunday the team was lackluster, failing to create chances for much of the game.
Seawolves head coach Cesar Markovic said the result was in spite of the performance.
“It’s the old saying, ‘You gotta win when you don’t play well if you’re a good team,’” Markovic said. “We proved we’re a good team today.”
A Leonardo Fernandes double in the final half hour led Stony Brook past the visiting Bulldogs (2-3), as the 2009 America East Rookie of the Year scored on a deflection and a free kick to twice give the Seawolves the lead, the second time for good.
“That’s what special players do,” Markovic said. “When you’re not playing your best as a team, they bail you out individually. [Fernandes] is a special player. He proved that today.”
It didn’t look like there would be any goals in the game for the entire first half, with the teams combining for just three first half shots.
Even out of the locker room, it looked like it would be more of the same as neither team seriously threatened the opponent’s goal.
But in the 63rd minute, Fernandes (North Babylon, N.Y.) took a hard shot from about 22 yards out. The sophomore’s low drive took a deflection off a Bryant defender and spun into the near side of the goal, giving the Seawolves a 1-0 lead.
Less than a minute later, Bryant capitalized on its best opportunity of the game, as the Bulldogs Norbert Guery snuck in behind the Stony Brook defense, receiving a headed pass and sliding the ball past sophomore goalkeeper Stefan Manz (Bronx, N.Y.).
With the game much more open now, Fernandes began to wiggle free into good areas. Several minutes after the Bryant goal, Fernandes slid the ball across the face of goal, the ball eluding the Bryant keeper but being cleared out of the six-yard box by a Bulldogs defender.
Then, in the 74th minute, the Seawolves earned a free kick from 20 yards out. Fernandes made no mistake, sending a curling drive into the top left corner of the goal to give Stony Brook the win.
Manz finished the game with two saves, including a brilliant stop on a Bryant volley with less than three minutes to go, beating back the shot and smothering the rebound to preserve the Seawolves victory.
The second half produced a much more open game, with the teams producing 14 shots between them, nine of them coming from Stony Brook.
Despite the win, Coach Markovic was not happy with the team’s performance.
“It was one of the worst games we’ve played in a long time,” he said, citing physical and emotional fatigue from the team’s home-opening win on Friday.
This coming Friday, Stony Brook faces a gigantic opponent in nationally-ranked Harvard.
“We’ll be excited for that,” he said. “We have a chance to do something special.”
Fernandes said he thinks the Seawolves can pull off a victory.
“We expect to win,” he said, noting that the team had already defeated an Ivy League opponent in Dartmouth this season.
Kickoff at LaValle Stadium is set for 7 p.m. Stony Brook is 2-0 at home this season.