Successful soccer programs never underestimate the notion of letdown, even when they’re ranked second in the nation.
Flying high with an unbeaten record of 8-0-2, the St. John’s men’s soccer team initially continued to dominate at No. 14 Louisville on Saturday when freshman Walter Hines cleaned up a rebound for a 1-0 lead early in the second half.
Then the letdown happened.
The Cardinals scored two unanswered goals off set pieces after Hines’ goal and handed the Red Storm a 2-1 loss, their first of the season.
“It means refocus,” senior captain Rory Quinn said. “When you lose a game, it shows your weaknesses. It’s almost a good opportunity to learn what you need to improve on. For us, it’s learning and implementing those things for the next game.”
St. John’s was pit against a bigger, more physical Louisville team. When the pressure was on in the Red Storm box, the Cardinals were able to create dangerous situations in the air, which led to both goals. Head coach Dave Masur sees the letdown as a lack of force and awareness in the second half. In fact, it was Hines’ goal that marked the downfall towards losing their unbeaten record.
“I don’t think we were prepared after we scored,” Masur said. “We didn’t do the right things as a unit to keep the pressure on. We let our guard down and inevitably it was our goal that undid us.”
Quinn, who has recently been playing a defensive midfield position with the return of a healthy defense, says it doesn’t matter if an opponent is ranked 14th or 114th, the preparation should be the same.
“Any team can beat any team, and Saturday just goes to show you,” Quinn said. “Each team is as dangerous as the other, in different ways, but as dangerous as the other.”
Louisville’s Colin Rolfe collected a loose ball out of the air and converted the equalizer past Storm goalie Neal Kitson in the 50th minute, less than a minute after the St. John’s tally, a classic soccer letdown goal.
Shortly after, in the 57th, Rolfe again had his head on the ball in the Storm box. This time he flicked a header off a Cardinal corner to John Jonke, who headed in the game-winner.
Kitson finished with five saves, some of which came late in the second half as his team worked for their equalizer. Louisville’s defense, meanwhile, stifled some late opportunities from St. John’s.
“I thought we were pretty patient [on offense],” Quinn said.
“They blocked a lot of our shots, which was really big for them. If one of those shots gets through, it might be a different game. They played a really solid defensive game.”
One thing Masur can take from the Louisville loss is the continued variety in which different St. John’s players find the net. The 18th-year coach has been proud of the squad’s depth all year, and Hines’ goal – the first of his career – once again proved that depth. Hines was the ninth different Johnnie to score a goal in 2008.
“Walter’s goal represents a litany of Walter always running, being in the right spots, never taking anything for granted and bringing energy to the team,” Masur said. “He’s always reading and trying to get there early.”
Hines goal was unassisted, but was created when the Cardinal’s keeper mishandled a cross by freshman defender Connor Lade. Tadeu Terra and Nelson Becerra added shots on goal for the Red Storm.