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Men's soccer drops home opener 4-2 against Bryant

Bears jump to 2-0 lead in first half before allowing four straight Bryant goals

The men’s soccer team (1-1) suffered a disappointing loss to Bryant University (1-3) in their season home opener at the newly renovated Stevenson-Pincince Field Wednesday. The Bears, who were playing without midfielder Derek Waleffe ’22 and goalkeeper James Swomley ’22, jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first half before allowing four unanswered Bryant goals.

Brown and Bryant each took 13 shots in the match, with Bryant putting six on goal compared to Brown’s three. After scoring just two goals across their first three matchups, Bryant’s final goal tally of four made it their highest-scoring game of the season.

In the 22nd minute, Brown opened the scoring action with a scrappy goal off a deflected corner kick by captain Will Crain ’22. Crain’s cross entered the middle of the six-yard box and, assisted by Malcom Johnson, rolled to Taha Kina ’24, who leapt forward and struck the ball toward the net with his right foot. Bryant’s goalkeeper dove and deflected the ball, but not until after it had crossed the goal line.

Due to the cancellation of the 2020 season, Kina’s goal came in the first home game of his Bears career. “It was a great feeling to get on the field after a long wait and the fan turnout was even better than we had hoped for,” Kina said.

In the 25th minute, Bryant’s Abdel Talabi was called for a foul after tackling Alex Mina ’22, giving Brown a free kick from 40 yards out. Crain played the role of facilitator once again, teeing off with his left foot and delivering a swift, looping pass toward the right side of the box. Owen Schwartz ’23 flew past Bryant defenders and jumped, directing a header into the bottom right corner of the net for a spectacular goal.

“Owen and I have a pretty good connection from playing center back together,” Crain said. “So I just hit it pretty well, and he was in the right spot. It was good for us to get that goal.”

Bryant answered quickly with a goal by Ben Williams in the 28th minute, who received a cross from Aaron Madison in the middle of the six-yard box and snuck a shot past goalkeeper Max Waldau ’22. Two minutes later, Bryant scored again with a left-side attack leading to a shot by Nick Awada. Bryant would score one more time in the first half when Williams, continuing to act as a key piece in Bryant’s offense, assisted Barney Brandon on a goal to put Bryant up 3-2 in the 43rd minute.

In the second half, Brown strung together multiple sequences of attacks and Bruno’s nine shots surpassed Bryant’s tally of three. But while none of Bruno’s attempts connected, one of Bryant’s did: Ben Williams’ second goal, scored in the 63rd minute, secured Bryant’s 4-2 victory.

After a rough stretch of play to open the second half, Bruno’s offense was rejuvenated and threatened Bryant on multiple occasions as the clock ran down. “The last ten minutes, I think you saw our team fight because we knew our backs (were) against the wall,” Crain said. “That was a good ten minutes of fighting, getting shots, getting crosses.”

Many of Bryant’s quality scoring chances came within the box as a result of set pieces, which occur after the stoppage of play due to a foul. “We did a decent job defensively on set pieces, but not as good as we can,” said Head Coach Patrick Laughlin. “When we get some more work in, we can get better at that.”

“We have to communicate more, we have to get set, mark our men and know where our positions are on the defensive set pieces,” Crain added. “It comes from all of us having to talk and figure out who’s got who.”

Brown was short-handed in the matchup due to the absence of goalkeeper Swomley and midfielder Waleffe. Waleffe scored both of Brown’s goals in their recent victory against the University of Hartford before missing Wednesday’s game against Bryant. Swomley, Brown’s usual starter in goal, was replaced by Max Waldau shortly before the game. “We had a tough situation having to change goalkeepers last minute,” Laughlin said. “It’s difficult to have to come in to play in this situation.”

“The eleven players on the field can change from day to day,” Crain added, “so it can be a little hard to get that connection going.”

With a large roster of 31 players, Brown will continue to experiment with a variety of lineup combinations to find a winning formula. “I think we saw a lot of guys tonight and we’re gonna keep trying to get better,” Laughlin said. “We’re gonna get back at it tomorrow and do a better job.”

This Saturday, Brown will face Niagara University at home for their third game of the season. “They’re a really good team,” Crain said. “(They’ll be) tougher than both of these games. The next two days, we just have to get into practice and work even harder.”

“We learned a lot from this game,” Kina said. “We fought hard in the second half and came up short, which happens. We know we need to prepare more on the defensive side of things and we look forward to the game at home versus Niagara this weekend.”

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