The Oswego State men’s soccer team continued its winning ways on Tuesday, posting a thrilling 1-0 victory over Roberts Wesleyan at Laker Field.
Freshman forward Ryan Purdy played the role of hero, scoring with less than three minutes left in the game off a cross from freshman midfielder Zach Saccocio. Saccocio received a pass on the right side, faked an overlap run to lose his defender, and sent a cross into the box. Purdy shook off the sweeper that was covering him, turned and volleyed a rocket into the back of the net.
The tone of the game was set by the physical presence of both sides and the apparent unwillingness of the referees to make many calls. Choppy play combined with mounting desperation led to some tense moments, the most notable of which took place between Purdy and Roberts Wesleyan defender Donavan Wilson. Less than five minutes later Purdy scored, right in front of a bewildered Wilson.
Goalkeeper P.J. Goodwin recorded his second shutout of the season, along with his fourth win.
“Good goalies make the saves they should,” Coach Robert Friske said. “Exceptional goalies make saves they aren’t supposed to. In the past two games, P.J. has proven that he is exceptional.”
With nine minutes left in a scoreless game, Goodwin made the save of the day. A Roberts Wesleyan forward broke away from the Laker defense and came at Goodwin from the right side. Goodwin cut off the angle and dove to the ground, taking the ball off of the forward’s foot.
The save swung the momentum to the Lakers, who capitalized on their next opportunity with Purdy.
The scariest moment of the game came when senior midfielder Ben Nix and sophomore defenseman/midfielder Andrew McBride collided less than two minutes into the second half. Nix and McBride remained down and had to be substituted out of the game. Remarkably, both were able to return later in the half.
“A gritty defender and a gritty midfielder are gonna get banged up…I would be crazy to expect to have a healthy squad, a healthy starting squad,” Friske said.
The Lakers have proven that they can win a game at any point, all the way to the final whistle.
“We sub more than most teams so our work rate stays high,” Friske said. “Teams have to match our depth, because we keep putting fresh talented guys out there. We have fresh legs at the end of every half where most teams are just hanging on.”
The underlying story of the season continues to be the dominant presence of the freshmen on the attack. Purdy’s goal was the sixth for the newest members of the team.
“I’m in my comfort zone,” Purdy said. “We’re working together well…we have our good upperclassmen too, everything’s bringing the team together.”
This team has seen success early off that was uncommon in past years. The 2011 Lakers are one win short of last year’s total with four. Last year’s largest problem, scoring goals, seems to have been solved by this freshman class. This squad had scored nine goals through five games, a season after scoring only 11 in 16 contests.
“These guys are learning quickly and working very hard,” Friske said.
With crucial conference games coming up, Friske isn’t about to sit back and enjoy the victories though. “I like goals, and it’s early, so there’s always room for improvement,” Friske said. “We win games in the last 10 minutes. We need to win before that.”
“I’m looking forward to more wins,” Purdy added.
The Lakers open their conference games at home when they face SUNY Oneonta at 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23.