STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
Drake battled to a 1-1 tie with the Bradley Braves at home on Saturday evening after Gareth Smith was promoted to head coach. He has led the team as an interim head coach all season and been an assistant for the five years previous.
“I don’t think it changes the nature of the position or what we’re trying to achieve,” Smith said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to be the coach at Drake and just want to continue the work that we’ve been doing in the past two, three months.”
Had the Bulldogs managed to pull out the win, they would’ve stolen the second seed in the Missouri Valley Conference from Bradley heading into the conference tournament. However, as neither team was able to score in overtime, the rankings remained unchanged.
The match was Drake’s fourth straight to go into overtime after tying three of their last four matches and losing to Edwardsville on Oct. 24 via golden goal in the 105th minute.
“That extra 20 minutes will certainly influence you in the next three to four games and your recovery time. It’s certainly become more kind of squad games now that we’re seeing a lot more substitutions being done to keep us fresh,” junior James Wypych said. “(It’s) a big squad effort, not just the 11 guys on the field.”
“Looking back at those games, sure there were opportunities to get a result,” goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod added, “but I don’t think our performance in those last four games have really been any different than how we’ve been preforming earlier in the season.”
Drake got out ahead of the Braves midway through the first half. Midfielder Mueng Sunday hit Wypych with a long pass. Wypych’s dribbling beat the lone defender and his finishing put the ball past the goalie.
Wypych now has seven goals on the season and Sunday has just as many assists, both of which lead the team.
The two teams looked even throughout the match, each finishing with six shots on goal in regular time. Bad news for the Bulldogs — they would end up even on the scoreboard as well.
With less than two minutes remaining, Bradley midfielder Andrew Brown scored his first goal of the season to tie the match at one.
“It’s an indication that, through the course of the game, we need to take the chances that we’re given,” Smith said. “If you don’t take those chances then you always give the opposition an opportunity to get back in the game at one-nothing, but if you get it to two or three then you can sustain one of those mistakes or concentration lapse.”
The goal broke goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod’s chance at his fourth shutout of the season.
The Bulldogs have been unable to keep an opponent scoreless since Oct. 13 when they defeated Western Illinois on the road 1-0.
Their third place finish in conference will force the Bulldogs to play in the first round of the MVC Championship Tournament in Edwardsville, IL. The Bulldogs will face off with the no. 6 Central Arkansas Bears tonight.
“Our front three need to concentrate on being clinical in the final third,” Smith said, “and I think as a unit, but in particular our back line … is going to have to be good because it’s in the later stages when your concentration goes that you really need to fight against the fatigue in order to be more focused and close games out.”
Should the Bulldogs come out on top in that match, Bradley will be waiting for them again on Friday night.
“They’re certainly not a team that we can overlook. We didn’t have the easiest of times when we went to Central Arkansas,” MacLeod said. “When it comes to the details they can get one lucky thing and then we can be backs against the wall, so we really can’t underestimate Wednesday’s game.”