The SUNYAC Men’s Soccer Semifinals began on Wednesday with Cortland playing host to Oneonta in a battle of the Red Dragons. Oneonta took down Buffalo State on Saturday by a score of 4-0 to advance while #1 seeded Cortland earned a bye due to their regular season play.
The two sides met earlier in the season when Oneonta took their turn playing host. On the day, Cortland grabbed the win thanks to a pair of goals in the final decade of minutes to close out the first half. Opening the scoring in the 38th minute was Junior Jake Keller. Just three minutes later, Freshman Anthony Ruggiero doubled the lead with a clever finish over the Oneonta goalkeeper.
Cortland Red Dragons: Kelly; Kaufman, Figarella, Nambiar, Aronson; Ruggiero, Miner, Tunas, Keller; Ormsby, Fuller.
Oneonta Red Dragons: Giordano; J. Cebollero, Ioos, S. Cebollero, Battistoni; Hughes, Pantoni, Plate, Ventura; Ruiz, Hernandez.
The opening quarter hour provided no reason to celebrate for either Red Dragon side with no goals scored. It was a feeling out process that saw Oneonta possess more of the ball with Cortland looking to hit the visitors on the counter-attack. A scramble in the box in the 23rd minute was the first either side came to scoring after a scramble in the box off of a corner kick. Luckily for Cortland, Sean Kelly’s reactions were quick enough to prevent the ball from crossing the goal line.
Cortland nearly found the back of the net in the 30th minute following some wonderful build-up play that eventually saw Blake Aronson’s shot fly over the crossbar, though a late offside flag would have prevented the goal regardless. The two sides were forced to go into the halftime break at a deadlock.
Once again the quarter hour mark changed the tempo in the half with both sides taking more chances in hope of bagging the game’s opening goal. Cortland began finding luck on the counter-attack with Ivan Dam doing a lot of work down the right wing.
It took 80 minutes for the opening goal, but the goal came from Oneonta’s Roberto Ventura following a give-and-go with former Brentwood High School teammate Alejandro Ruiz. After some nifty footwork to beat Jake Kaufman, the midfielder gave the ball to Ruiz, received it back, and slid the ball past Sean Kelly to break the deadlock.
Despite it looking like the visitors had sealed the win, Jake Keller found the equalizer in with just over two minutes remaining. Kaufman booted the ball into the box which was knocked down to the feet of Miguel Tunas who found Keller alone in the penalty area. The Junior made no mistake sliding the ball past a diving Nicholas Giordano and forcing extra time.
Following some controversy and a long break ahead of Extra Time, it was determined that Oneonta’s goalscorer, Roberto Ventura, had received a second yellow and was shown a red card forcing the visitors to play with 10 men for the remainder of the match.
After two scoreless 10-minute halves, the sides remained at a deadlock and went into a penalty shootout to determine who would advance to Saturday’s SUNYAC final. The shootout opened with a save from each keeper, as Sean Kelly pushed Nick Plate’s shot aside while Nick Lindovski forced Aronson’s shot onto the post. Kelly follwed that up with a save in round two while Tunas found the back of the net to give Cortland the lead. In the fifth and final round, Michael Miner scored and ran off in celebration pushing his side into the SUNYAC Finals.
On Saturday, Cortland will host Brockport with the Red Dragons hosting the match at 1 PM EST. The Golden Eagles took down New Paltz earlier Wednesday to advance. Cortland will hope the momentum of Wednesday’s win will carry them past a hot Brockport team.