Men’s soccer has shot to derail undefeated Brown

Seventy years ago, the men’s soccer team beat Brown, 3-0, in the two Ivy teams’ first-ever encounter. Last year, Yale defeated the Bears, 1-0, in the final game of the season.

Tomorrow, with Brown’s undefeated conference record at stake, the Elis will try to disrupt their flow by securing a third consecutive win against the men from Providence, R.I.

The face-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at Reese Stadium, as the Bulldogs play their penultimate home game of the season.

“Every time we play Brown, it always seems to be our best game of the year,” defender Max Rhodes ’09 said. “They’re fun to play because they bring a lot of intensity. I think it’s just going to be a battle.”

The No. 6 Bears boast a pair of forwards with eight and nine goals, respectively, and an offense that leads conference standings in almost every category, from shots on goal (6.77) to fouls per game (18).

Brown is undefeated in the Ancient Eight and has conceded just one defeat, to Boston University, and has a lone tie, against UC-Irvine.

But Ivy League matchups seem different since both teams seem to bring their best to the field. The Elis also have some experience playing against top-ranked teams after a 0-0 tie to No. 7 Boston College and a 2-1 loss at the hands of No. 1 UConn.

“This is going to be a battle — it’s going to be a fast-paced and physical grind for both teams as all important Ivy games tend to be,” head coach Brian Tompkins said. “We’re realistic about what we’re facing — a team that’s playing very well and is highly motivated — but that will inspire us, it won’t daunt us.”

The Bulldogs have been steadily improving throughout the season, coming back from an early four-game losing streak to win six consecutive matches. Last Saturday’s victory over Columbia was exemplary of the progress the Eli offense has made, as the Bulldogs punched four goals into the back of the net.

After the game against the Lions, the Elis now boast nine players with at least one goal, four of whom have two or more scores.

Along with the burgeoning offense, a consistently solid performance by the almost impenetrable back line is a hallmark of the Bulldogs’ style — over the past six games, the defense has blocked 16 shot attempts. Captain and goalkeeper Erik Geiger ’08 has been a force between the posts, with a .806 save percentage.

Defender Markus Jackson ’09 said the improvement is the result of the team’s increased confidence.

“It’s a combination of things,” he said. “We started to take things more seriously in training, and players are just getting more confident. They’re adjusting to the level and speed of play and learning the amount of concentration and focus that’s required.”

There is a pattern to the Bulldogs’ past four matches. The squad tends to struggle to control the ball in the first half and has allowed an early goal in five of the past six games. But the ever-improving Elis were able to score a goal on the rebound in each of those matches, virtually eliminating their possession woes after halftime.

In 2005, the Bulldogs took the second-to-last game of the season at home against Brown, 2-1, en route to a league championship. This year the Bears are the ones bidding for a title, but the Bulldogs have the potential to disrupt that momentum and beat the Bears late in the season for the third year in a row, Tompkins said.

“Brown’s the team everyone is trying to catch,” he said. “Competitive athletes live for the big challenge, and this is as big of a challenge as we’re going to see. People shouldn’t be surprised if this game brings out a good performance in the guys.”

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