It wasn’t the same.
Although the St. John’s men’s soccer team played No. 18 Brown to a 1-1 draw for their eighth tie in 14 games, last night’s game was different.
While so many of their previous draws have been characterized by anemic offense being saved by strong defense, yesterday’s game boasted drama, excitement and some conflict.
Tied 0-0 in the 36th minute, Red Storm midfielder Pablo Punyed had his shot blocked and went down awkwardly. As he lay at midfield, Brown took the ball down the field on a counterattack, and eventually scored.
Head coach David Masur, stormed onto the field in protest, furious that play wasn’t stopped by either the referees or by Brown kicking the ball out.
He received a red card that ended his night on the sideline.
“There’s a lot of gray area in those situations,” Masur said after the game. “Usually the opposing team will kick the ball out. Pablo was kind of up-and-down, and Brown didn’t really know what to do.”
He didn’t spare the officials, however.
“Often an official will see that and stop the game. This did not occur. Brown continued to attack and scored a goal.”
At halftime, Masur came into the press box to see the video of the play. The video confirmed his feelings.
Punyed agreed with his coach’s assessment.
“I was tackled, fairly, but he got me with the cleats,” he said.
“The referee should have stopped the play. I was down on the floor. Masur overreacted but that’s part of his personality. I think the referees should have thought that one over.”
Lost in all the excitement was the sobering fact: St. John’s had dug itself into a hole in the first half again, and would need to come back against a good team, again.
Without Masur, the players were certain that they wouldn’t miss a beat.
“We’ve got two great assistant coaches in Jeff [Matteo] and Reevos [Mark Reeves],” senior midfielder Nelson Becerra said.
Punyed added, “He’s a great presence, even when he’s on the sideline. But we knew what we had to do to win.”
In the second half, as they have done all year, the Red Storm came out with renewed energy. They outshot the Bears 9-1, and tied it up with a goal on a penalty kick in the 61st minute by Becerra. He got the opportunity when a handball was called inside the penalty area.
After a short debate with junior midfielder Tadeu Terra over who should take the kick, he eventually took the ball. He did not disappoint, putting a ball inside the left post to knot the score.
“I practice my PKs a lot,” Becerra said. “I was really confident that I was going to score.”
The rest of the second half was marked with near misses and some good saves by Brown keeper Paul Grandstand. They forced Grandstand to make eight saves. Their nine shots on goal were well over the five that they usually average.
“We’re getting more consistent,” said Masur.
Added Punyed, “We’ve been trying to turn the corner. The team has been trying extra hard…Everybody’s stepped it up.”
The overtime periods had their moments as well. In the 106th minute, Brown junior midfielder David Walls took a free kick from about 21 yards out. His shot beat senior goalkeeper Derby Carrillo, but hit the crossbar, mere inches away from ending the game.
In the second overtime, St. John’s had an opportunity as time wound down. Becerra, dribbling down the middle of the field, spotted sophomore forward Walter Hines streaking down the left side. His lead pass missed him by mere feet, disrupting what could have been a possible breakaway.
With the tie, St. John’s (4-2-8, 3-1-4) in the Big East finds itself tied for third place in the Big East’s Red division. A top-four finish in the division promises them a home game in the Big East tournament.
They go on the road to Red division foe Cincinatti on Saturday. The Bearcats, at 3-5 in the Big East, lie four points back of St. John’s.
Said Punyed, “It’s going to be cold, but they’re a great team…We just gotta play our game. We’re away, but we gotta play our game.”