Photo by Cassandra Bauer
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE BY ADAM ROGAN
Pouring rain contributed to the physicality of a night match between Drake Men’s Soccer (5-9-1, 2-4-1 MVC) and the Bradley Braves (2-12-3, 5-9-1 MVC) on Oct. 26. The match featured 32 fouls, 28 shots, two overtime periods and three goals.
The match nearly ended during regular time as the Bulldogs held a 1-0 lead entering regular time’s final minute.
A long throw-in from the Braves put the ball into Drake’s box. Bradley’s All-Conference senior midfielder Alex Garcia blasted the free ball over the outstretched hand of Drake goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod in the middle of the net.
Some of the Bulldogs showed frustration, believing that the clock showed 0:00 when Garcia took the shot, but the referees ruled that he got it off in time.
Both sides got aggressive early in extra time, the Braves surging across midfield after Drake took the opening kickoff of the third period.
The Bulldogs put the first shot on goal two minutes into extra time, a headed attempt by senior defender James Grunert, but it was saved. There wasn’t another shot on goal until the 109th minute.
Drake senior Eric Williams made a run from near midfield to the top of Bradley’s box, battling defenders and nearly losing possession a couple times before completing a pass to sophomore Nic Jaimes.
Jaimes dribbled to the center of the box, curled the ball around the final Bradley defender into the top-right corner of the net from 12 yards out for the golden goal and a 2-1 Drake victory. It was his first goal of the season.
Considering the eventfulness of the final 20 minutes, the match started slowly. There were only eight shots in the first half and only one on goal.
By the second half, both sides made it clear that they wanted to tarnish the other’s clean sheet. Each side logged six shots, with Drake’s first four shots of the period coming within 35 seconds of each other.
That stretch ended with a one-on-one chance for Jaimes inside the penalty box, but a sliding defender deflected the ball out of bounds.
Five minutes later, the Bulldogs were on the attack again. Bradley freshman defender John Pollifrone tried to clear a cross with his head, but the ball didn’t leave the box. After whiffing on a header of his own, senior James Wypych had another opportunity from about five yards out. He put it past the keeper for his fourth goal in two matches.
MacLeod made a pair of tough, athletic diving saves within less than a minute of one just past the 80-minute mark.
Those saves were even more impressive considering that MacLeod has been battling some wear-and-tear injuries. He wasn’t even taking his own goal kicks, relying on defenders to do the work. Earlier this week, Drake head coach Gareth Smith didn’t think that the redshirt-senior would be ready to go on Wednesday night, MacLeod’s streak of 71 consecutive starts was preserved nonetheless.
The win ties Drake with Central Arkansas at fifth place in the Missouri Valley Conference. They will meet this Saturday night in Des Moines for the final match of the conference season to decide where each will be seeded in the MVC Tournament.