During the past three tumultuous men’s soccer seasons, one thing had been a constant: Bobby Thalman ’13 in net.

Last year’s captain, who played a total of 4,556 out of 4,815 possible minutes over his final three seasons, was an ever-present key to keeping the Bulldogs in tight games. Last year the Elis had 12 contests decided by one or fewer goals, including five shutout performances by Thalman.

“Bobby had tremendous size and range which made him hard to beat,” head coach Brian Tompkins said. “He was probably the best pure shot-stopper in the league.”

The 6-foot-5-inch Colorado native had the most saves out of any goalkeeper in the Ivy League both his junior and senior seasons. Thalman was also a second team All-Ivy League selection for both seasons and received Ivy League player of the week twice during his Yale career.

“Bobby exemplified leadership through example,” forward Avery Schwartz ‘16 said. “He was constantly focused on improving both on and off the field and was always willing to put the team before himself.”

While replacing Thalman in net will be a major issue for the Elis this season, Tompkins has put his faith in Blake Brown ’15 for the upcoming season. The 6-foot-4-inch goalkeeper, who hails from Mansfield, Texas, has only featured in three games during his career at Yale, though he has yet to let in a goal in just over 100 minutes in net. Brown, who was first team all-state selection his junior year in high school, has much experience from helping lead the Solar Red ’93 soccer club to the national championship in the 2007-’08 season in addition to numerous tournament appearances with his academy team. Brown earned his first win of his career last season, posting two saves during a comeback victory against Marist.

“Blake has been an observant and hard-working apprentice in his first two years, and he has learned a lot by training with Bobby and watching him play,” Tompkins said. “I think he is ready and able to accept the task ahead of him. Blake has worked hard for his opportunity and will be the starter.”

Brown commented that Thalman helped him adjust to the new speed and style of college soccer. He added that the coaching staff, including goalkeeper coach Cailean Bailey, have helped to improve all aspects of his game, especially strength and fitness.

“I’m not nervous at all about stepping into the role of starting goalkeeper because I know that I have a great defensive line in front of me and I am confident in my abilities to complement them as well as their abilities to complement me,” Brown said.

Posting a record of 4-8-5 in 2013, the Bulldogs will be gunning for improvement with a talented and deep team that features an unusually large and experienced senior class. Brown will officially take over the starting role for Yale’s first game this coming Friday with Ryan Simpson ’17 on the bench. Simpson is the only other goalkeeper on the team, yet he comes with considerable experience from high school where he earned Prep School all-state honors in both his junior and senior seasons at Buckingham Browne & Nichols.

The Elis take on Fordham at Jack Coffey Field this Friday at 5 p.m.