St. Peter, Minn. – When the Gustavus men’s soccer team has needed a goal, the likely source has been sophomore Zach Brown (Eau Claire, Wis.). On Saturday afternoon against St. Thomas with the stakes at their highest, that story didn’t change. In the 105th minute of the match, Brown willed his way through the St. Thomas defense before chipping the ball into the back of the net for the game-winning goal.
“A proper game today between two teams trying to play football the right way. We kept knocking on the door and sure enough were rewarded in double-overtime.” said Head Coach Mike Middleton. “The game went in ebbs and flows with both teams having their chances. Much credit must be given to them and you can see why they have such an outstanding record. They contributed greatly to the game.”
Gustavus picks up three points with the win and moves into sole possession of first place in the conference standings with 22 points and a record of 12-2-1 overall and 7-1-1 in the MIAC. St. Thomas drops to 10-3-3 overall and 6-1-1 in the MIAC and is now in a tie for second place alongside Carleton with 19 points.
The match-up between the two top teams in the MIAC lived up to its billing with the Gusties and Tommies battling each other through a 90-minute regulation and a 10-minute overtime session before finally the game-winning goal was scored.
St. Thomas had a slight shots advantage after the first half at 7-to-5. The Tommies also benefited from six corner kick opportunities in the frame, but could put the ball past Gustavus keeper Brett Ylonen (So., Lake Elmo, Minn.).
The Gusties turned the shots column to their favor in the second half, out-firing the Tommies 7-to-3 while also gaining seven corner kicks compared to St. Thomas’ two. Inside the final minute of regulation, the Gusties missed on a corner kick chance that sailed across the goal mouth untouched.
Gustavus recorded a pair of shots on goal in the first overtime session, yet couldn’t beat Tommie goalkeeper Mitchell Wolff and the match went into the second and final overtime segment.
At the halfway point of the second overtime, Zach Brown saw an opening in the St. Thomas defense and took advantage. “What can you say about Zach Brown. He is just thinking and anticipating quicker than everyone around him.” commented Middleton on Brown’s game-winner. “His was the ultimate poacher’s goal – it wasn’t pretty but it didn’t have to be. He is like a bloodhound, even a half-chance in the box he sniffs it out and puts it in the back of the net.”
Gustavus finished with a 15-to-11 shots advantage, while St. Thomas held the corner kick edge at 10-to-8. Of Gustavus’ 15 shots, 10 of which were on target.
Goalkeeper Brett Ylonen continued to be a wall between the posts, recording four saves on the way to a shutout. In what is a credit to both Ylonen and the back line in front of him, Gustavus has not relinquished a goal in five straight matches. The Gusties have allowed just nine goals all season for a league-best goals against average of .57.
Ylonen is now 10-2-1 on the year with six complete-match shutouts. The sophomore has a save percentage of .871 and a goals against average of 0.56.
“Brett Ylonen has nerves of steel – he was the epitome of cool, “said Middleton. “And what a defensive performance. Lucas Thompson gets all the plaudits being an all-region defender, but today his defensive partner Zack Schmith was an absolute colossus out there.”
The first place Gusties will close out the regular season next week with a Tuesday match against Crown College at 4:00 p.m. in St. Bonifacius and a Saturday match against Macalester at 1:00 p.m. in St. Paul.
“All the lads covered themselves in glory. They are such battlers with each individual contributing to the win,” concluded Middleton. “I have to say Eric Schneider must have ran seven miles during the game – he covered every blade of grass. And Sean Sendelbach bristled with intent. A good day at the office and a few days of well-earned rest for the lads.”
It was also Testicular Cancer Awareness Day at the Gustie Soccer Field, as both Gustavus and St. Thomas participated in the event by wearing orchid shoelaces and armbands for the match. Mike Middleton and the rest of the Gustavus men’s soccer team would like to extend a sincere thank you to St. Thomas and the fans at today’s match for taking part in the event.