In each of the last two years, the men’s soccer team (5-2) has had a rough ride in the games leading up to Ivy play, finding it difficult to score the first year and having trouble maintaining a high standard of play for entire games the second.
Although the team has had a few slow starts, neither issue is a pressing concern this year as Columbia, riding a five-game winning streak, hosts Brown (3-4-1) in Saturday’s Ivy opener.
First-year defender Rhys Williams said he was excited for conference play to start. “It’ll be tough,” he said. “But we have a young team, and I think us freshmen are up to the challenge.”
Like last season, Columbia has some first-years playing prominent roles. Joe Morris and Williams are both regular starting defenders, and midfielders Ron Zori and Andrew Tinari and forward Nicholas Pappacena all get substantial playing time as well.
After seeing more than half its starting lineup from 2012 graduate, Brown has a lot of youth in its lineup. But the Bears may be in line to take a step back, unlike the Lions. After going 13-3-3 last season and ending the year ranked in the top 20, they have had a rough 1-4-1 start this season, although they’ve won their last two. The Bears dominated Marist 5-0 a week ago before defeating Boston University 3-1 on Tuesday.
“Brown specifically is a team who is very well organized, a team who is very disciplined,” Lions head coach Kevin Anderson said. “They have some special players on their team. They are a team that we respect.”
Like last season, Brown has a balanced attack, with five players tied for the team lead in goals with two, although the team is not as dominant defensively, with only one shutout in eight games (compared to 10 in 19 last season).
In last season’s meeting, Columbia fell 2-1 to the Bears. Although the game was tied at halftime, the Bears scored on a penalty kick and their defense prevented Columbia from generating good scoring chances.
“Our job is to dictate more of what we do rather than what they do,” Anderson said.
Kickoff is at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Columbia Soccer Stadium. The match will be followed by the women’s soccer team’s own Ivy opener against Brown.