Soccer can be cruel to teams who don't finish their scoring chances.
Despite out-shooting Siena 25-10 overall and 10-4 on target, Canisius men's soccer settled for a 2-2 tie on Wednesday afternoon at Demske Sports Complex.
"This is Division I. We talk about winning championships, but if you want to win championships, you have to take care of business, and we should have won tonight, and it's our fault that we didn't," Griffs head coach Dermot McGrane said flatly.
The Griffs take a point from their first match of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play, but they unanimously believe they should have come away with three.
"A point is a point, and it could become very big toward the end of the season, but it still feels like a loss," remarked Canisius' Bjarki Benediktsson. "I felt like we dominated most of the game defensively; they had two chances they did well to finish, but we should have put them away earlier on."
While Canisius squandered several opportunities, many were thwarted by the brilliance of Siena goalkeeper Aleks Radosavljevic, the preseason All-MAAC pick, who made eight saves overall and stopped a penalty kick among his five stops in the overtime periods.
*1-0, Siena, 24': Flying down the right flank for the Saints, Grand Island native Frank Cotroneo served a pinpoint cross into Conor McGlynn's run toward the middle of the net. The goalscorer stuck out his left foot to deflect the pass toward goal, leaving Canisius goalkeeper Marco Trivellato helpless on his line.
*1-1, 34': Canisius evened the match amid controversy just 10 minutes later. A daring run down the left wing by Hunter Walsh, whose quickness worried Siena throughout the afternoon, ended in a collision with 6'2, 225-pound center back Scott Williams.
Naturally, the University at Buffalo transfer endured the worst of the challenge, and the referee pointed to the penalty spot despite continuous shouts from irate Saints. Griffs center back Alex Grattarola stepped up with poise and deposited his effort.
34': Goal, Griffs! Hunter Walsh draws a penalty kick - Siena absolutely incensed - and Alex Grattarola does the rest. 1-1. pic.twitter.com/8N9aSD0oNS
— Buffalo News Soccer (@BN_Soccer) September 27, 2017
*2-1, Canisius, 75': The Griffins soared in front on a magnificent counter attack, sparked by a deft one-touch flick by Troy Brady inside his own half. Lucian Preis, the recipient, sped into space, poked the ball to Melvin Blair, who alertly pushed a first-time pass to Italian striker Filippo Tamburini.
The timing of the final pass was immaculate - one step farther and the forward was surely offsides - and Tamburini struck his close shot high off Radosavljevic's fingertips, but the Siena keeper couldn't slow the pace enough to keep it from bouncing over his goal line.
"We've [scored on a counter] in a few games now," McGrane reflected. "We've got a lot of speed on the team and a lot of smart players, and we do work on it in practice so it was nice to see it happen. It was a quality goal."
*2-2, 84': With Canisius under 10 minutes from seizing three points, Siena's creativity in the final third - despite the absence of burly No. 9 Alexander Tejera, who left earlier with a shoulder injury - sparked the equalizer.
With a low pass played near the edge of the 18-yard box, substitute Diego Ruiz deftly flicked the ball to McGlynn, who found Alejandro Riquelme's diagonal run with a quick pass. The Spanish freshman cut his shot back to the near post, eluding Trivellato with a dipping strike.
"We go from 'should have scored a goal' to one bad touch to a second later we're scored on," said an exasperated McGrane. "It just can't happen. The game should have been put away in regulation."
"It was just a momentary lapse," said Benediktsson. "We shut off our mind for like one moment and they took advantage of it."
GRIFFS' SQUANDERED CHANCES
*19': Preseason All-MAAC pick Melvin Blair's sterling individual effort nearly put Canisius ahead. The Jamaican cut sharply past two defenders before making Siena captain Danilo Markovic look silly, but Radosavljevic rose to the occasion, knocking aside Blair's low drive headed to the near post.
*51', 55': Griffs substitute Eric Strauchen almost converted two headed chances within a span of five minutes when Canisius served in crosses at will. Grattarola's direct service from midfield was nodded over the onrushing Radosavljevic by the senior forward, but it bounced a yard wide of the frame.
Four minutes later, a right-footed cross from right back Wes Rider found the Rochester native's head again, but Strauchen couldn't direct it on target.
*81': Troy Brady will rue a missed chance to seal the game after Tamburini turned on the afterburners to round Siena's Scott Williams and played a cross along the top of the six-yard box. The Griffs' leading scorer was a step ahead of his defender but failed to get a touch on the service for a tap-in.
*100': Canisius was robbed of a golden goal after a wild sequence of events. A Griffs attacker sent a dangerous cross into the box from the left side, and it was handled by Siena center back Williams, already on a yellow. Not only was Canisius awarded a penalty kick for the infraction, but Williams was sent off, leaving the Saints with 10 men for the remainder of the match if the Griffs wasted the spot kick.
After converting earlier, Grattarola was picked to shoot again, but this time Radosavljevic met the challenge.
100': Whoa, crazy sequence. Handball in box on Siena leads to Griffs' PK, but Radovasljevic stands tall. Red card assessed to SC's Williams. pic.twitter.com/SiqrIk4Mi5
— Buffalo News Soccer (@BN_Soccer) September 27, 2017
"Alex is very good on [penalty kicks]," McGrane explained, "but it's tough to take two in one day. I should have probably have someone else step up, but I was confident in him. That was a big moment right there."
103' and 105': During a scrum in Siena's 18-yard box, Blair snapped a shot that ricocheted off a defender and skipped inches wide of the back post, leaving the exhausted midfielder looking forlorn at his bad luck.
On the ensuing corner kick, Grattarola elevated - which was barely necessary since he's 6-foot-6 - to meet the cross at the back post, heading down with force to test Radosavljevic, who dove acrobatically to his left to push aside.
"We got nine shots on goal, and at least five or six of them were good chances that should have been put away," said Benediktsson, Canisius' starting center back.
"Especially as a defender, it's frustrating to see that many chances not getting finished, but it is what it is today, and we'll start looking at Fairfield tomorrow and go from there."
*BRADY AND COTRONEO: Best friends Brady and Cotroneo, both Grand Island High School graduates and Empire United products, each played more than half the game but rarely battled one on one.
While there was some thought that McGrane would deploy Brady as a left winger versus Cotroneo at right back, Brady instead spent most of the match centrally or on the right side.
Below is a feature story detailing Brady and Cotroneo's friendship, which has helped each of them through difficulty.
*POTENTIAL MILESTONE: Although further confirmation is needed, the Canisius vs. Siena match may have included the most players from one town on the field over the course of an NCAA Division I game.
Grand Island natives and high school graduates that saw minutes were Troy Brady, Nick Szabo, Mitch Cancilla and Frank Cotroneo. It's worth pointing out that Vinny Cancilla and Joe Farrell, two unused substitutes for the Griffs, also boast a Grand Island connection. That's four of the 32 players who hit the pitch, or 12.5 percent.
*FINAL WORD: "It was one of those days where everything seemed to fall for them and nothing seemed to fall for us, but it happens." - Bjarki Benediktsson
*NEXT MATCH: McGrane's Griffins travel to Fairfield for a match Saturday before returning home for the Battle of the Bridge, the rivalry clash against Niagara University at 7 p.m. Oct. 4.
Siena College (0-0-1): Aleks Radosavljevic; Frank Cotroneo, Danilo Markovic, Scott Williams, Milorad Sobot; Tommaso Centemero; Andreas Rosnes, Conor McGlynn, Alejandro Riquelme, Eamonn Conway; Alexander Tejera. Subs used: Diego Ruiz, Adel Cekic, Matt Crisafulli, Marco Kloster, Paolino Curto.
Canisius College (0-0-1): Marco Trivellato; Nick Szabo, Alex Grattarola, Bjarki Benediktsson, Hakeem Milson; Troy Brady, Will Pauls, Lucian Preis, Evan Walsh, Melvin Blair; Filippo Tamburini. Subs used: Hunter Walsh, Mitch Cancilla, Manuelle Cavazzoli, Wes Rider, Eric Strauchen.