Men’s soccer blanks Brown

The streak is still alive.

No. 22 St. John’s men’s soccer team posted its third straight shutout to open the season with a 1-0 win over No. 12 Brown University on Friday night in the adidas-Brown Soccer Classic.

The Red Storm has not opened the season with three consecutive shutouts since 1999, a year they reached the Round of 16 in the NCAA tournament. Head coach Dave Masur boasts a perfect three-game start for the first time since 2001, a Final Four year for the Storm.

It’s no wonder Masur’s expectations are so high.

“There’s a long way to go, we expect to do that every game,” Masur said. “Brown is a very well-organized, hard-working and physical team. We used our depth and got different pickups from different people.”

Forward Adam Himeno also kept his personal streak rolling. His game-winner in the 72nd minute marked the third consecutive game he has scored in. His three goals in 2008 already match his goal total from last year.

After fending off the Bears for the majority of the match, St. John’s launched a string of attacks in the second half. The game’s lone goal came when Nelson Becerra played a ball into the box to Himeno, who deceptively let the ball roll past him. The junior goal scorer quickly turned and fired a left-footer into the right side netting.

“He has a rocket of a left foot,” Masur said.

When it came to keeping the sheet clean for St. John’s, the usual suspects were at work. Goalkeeper Neal Kitson’s “timely saves”, according to Masur, were the key to preserving the win. The senior goalie turned away numerous crosses and long balls into the Red Storm box and saved five Bear shots, a few which sent him sprawling as the game clock dwindled.

Defender Rory Quinn has been at the forefront of the Johnnie’s staunch backfield. To blank nationally recognized teams and to receive countrywide accolades themselves, Quinn says, is an honor.

“I think it’s nice to get that kind of recognition,” the senior said. “But it needs a lot more work. Once you get something going like this it shows you put the time in and it only makes me want to keep working hard.”

Masur also commended Connor Lade and David Reed for their defensive efforts. Freshman Walter Hines provided a spark off the bench for St. John’s at forward, keeping the Red Storm attack fresh and focused.

During the 3-0 start, many of the Storm’s 11 freshmen have seen some significant minutes. Masur has said previously that the resiliency of the team’s youth will play a large role in determining the direction of this season. That is why the 17 year head coach is still tinkering with the lineup.

“We’re trying to see who’s going to have the hot hand and who is progressing as we expected,” Masur said. “There will be some highs and lows, even when we win. It all comes down to consistency of their attitude and being able to deal with bumps in the road.”

St. John’s record-tying start has come against teams across the nation’s top polls. In addition to Brown, Virginia was ranked No. 18 in the Soccer America Poll and Old Dominion received votes in both polls. All three wins took place on the road, before the Red Storm debut at Belson Stadium in Queens.

“It’s always good to play a challenging schedule,” Masur said. “We’re learning a lot about ourselves and we have to keep our focus. The challenges will continue to mount.”

St. John’s next challenge will be the hardest to surmount in this young season. The men’s second tournament game is against No. 2 Boston College today at noon.