Hosting Florida International (FIU) on Friday and Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) two days later, the Princeton University men’s soccer got off to a slow start in both contests.
On Friday, the Tigers were outshot 11-3 by FIU in the first half but were able to eke out a 1-0 lead at intermission and then pull away to a 4-2 victory as Cameron Porter and Thomas Sanner each scored two goals.
Things didn’t go so well on Sunday, however, when Princeton fell 1-0 in overtime as it was outplayed in the first half and was unable to find the back of the net over the last 40 minutes of regulation despite outshooting FGCU 12-4 in that stretch.
In the wake of the loss to FGCU, Princeton head coach Jim Barlow made no effort to hide his frustration.
“We had a really, really tough first half and put ourselves in position to lose a close game because we started so poorly,” said Barlow, whose team dropped to 2-5 with the setback to the Eagles.
“Gulf Coast was pretty sharp in the first half but we just weren’t ready to play today. It was the same the other night. FIU killed us in the first half. I don’t know why we are starting so slowly and taking such a long time to get into it.”
While Princeton did get into a better rhythm in the second half, it was too little, too late.
“The second half was better; we did create chances but we didn’t put them away,” said Barlow.
“There is just so much parity in college soccer, to play well in spurts like that is giving the other team a chance to win the game on one play. We didn’t really give a chance away after halftime until the first overtime when they got two chances. It was a big game for us and we didn’t come out sharp. It is frustrating. We see a lot of potential in spurts and in stretches but we would like to be able to count on a certain level of play from enough guys in every game so you know what you are going to get from game to game.”
The Tigers are getting a high level of play from defenders Billy McGuinness and Josh Miller along with midfielder Myles McGinley.
“Billy McGuinness and Josh Miller were awesome; those two guys are just so rock solid in the center back,” said Barlow.
“When we are having days where we are playing really poorly like we were in the first half, those two guys are still putting out fires and bailing people out and saving the day time and time again. Those two guys deserve a lot of credit when a lot of guys in front of them are having bad days. It is good to have Myles healthy again. That was a plus for the weekend, having gone a few games without him. He is an important player for us and he had a pretty good second half too.”
As Princeton starts its Ivy League campaign with a game at Dartmouth (4-0-3) on October 5, it is going to be important for the Tigers to show urgency from the opening whistle.
“Every Ivy League game is such a battle and the competing part is raised to an even higher level so that part is going to be really important,” said Barlow.
“If we have stretches like we did in the first half today we are in trouble. So how you work on that is a challenge we will have to figure out during a week of training. We know we have the talent to beat anyone on our schedule if we are sharp. We also know that we have a lot of good teams on our schedule who can beat us. So it is going to be a lot of close games like it always is and we have got to get better.”