Jim Barlow knew that his Princeton University men’s soccer team faced a stern test when it opened its season at Fairleigh Dickinson last Friday night.
FDU brought a 2-0 record into the clash along with the confidence of having advanced to the Round of 16 in the 2012 NCAA tournament.
Showing some opening night jitters, Princeton fell behind 2-0 some 40 minutes into the contest.
Tiger head coach Barlow acknowledged that digging an early hole was not the formula for success against the Knights.
“You need to get the first goal against a team like that,” said Barlow, reflecting on the early deficit. “We couldn’t find an answer for their center halfbacks, they were both 6’4 or 6’5, good in the air and athletic.”
While Princeton fought gamely the rest of the way, it ended up falling 3-0.
“We didn’t play poorly,” said Barlow. “We were able to get the ball moving and keep them in their end. When we fell behind, we picked up the tempo and got the ball in their end more, creating some half-chances.”
Barlow noted that sophomores Nico Hurtado and Jack Hilger did create some positive energy for the Tigers.
“Nico and Jack came off the bench and helped us be more dynamic,” said Barlow, noting that Princeton lost stars Cameron Porter and Myles McGinley to leg injuries during the game. “Hilger was good at pressing up on the ball, he took a step forward.”
The Tigers did take a step back in one critical area of the game. “I think the big thing is we conceded two goals on the re-starts,” said Barlow.
“The first goal was on a corner, the ball was kicked high in the air and we didn’t have good communication. On the second goal, one of their center halves headed it in right off the corner.”
With the Tigers playing four games in a nine-day stretch starting with a game at Rutgers on September 13, Barlow hopes to get his squad headed in the right direction.
“We need to keep figuring things out,” added Barlow, whose team will host Seton Hall on September 15 in its home opener.
“We have a bunch of games in a row against some very good teams. We will get better and we would like to get some wins while we are improving. We need to be less naive on restarts and be better around the goal. We will have Thomas Sanner back so that should solidify us up front.”
The Tigers will need to get better quickly in order to hold their own in the clash with the Scarlet Knights, who are 1-2-1 and are coming off a 2-1 overtime loss to No. 5 Akron.
“Last year’s game with Rutgers is on our minds; I thought we played poorly,” said Barlow, reflecting on the 2-0 loss in the 2012 meeting between the local rivals.
“They came in here and really beat us up. This is a good opportunity to play against a good team and take a step forward.”