PEORIA, Ill. – Senior forward Jochen Graf made his return to action golden, scoring the game-winner just 1:47 into overtime to lift Bradley (9-4-2, 3-1-0 MVC) to a 3-2 Missouri Valley Conference victory against Drake (4-9-3, 1-1-1 MVC) Wednesday night at Shea Stadium.
Persevering through a back-and-forth game played in monsoon conditions, the win evens Bradley’s all-time record (241-241-46) for the first time in the program’s 26-year history. Pending the outcome of SIU Edwardsville’s game at Evansville, which was halted in the 79th minute with Evansville leading 1-0, Bradley has at least temporarily moved into sole possession of first place in The Valley standings heading into Saturday’s showdown at #19 Creighton and earned its spot in the 6-team MVC Men’s Soccer Championship next month at Shea Stadium.
Graf, who is Bradley’s active career scoring leader, had missed the last seven games due to a thigh injury suffered Sept. 14 versus Lipscomb. He returned to action as a first-half sub and came off the bench for the final few minutes of regulation. The Braves actually had a sub, Wojciech Wojcik, ready to sub in for Graf when he netted the winner, his team-best sixth goal of the season and second game-winner of the year.
Drake keeper Rich Gallagher, who made 10 saves on the night, attempted to punch out a Bradley service, but he mis-hit the clearance. Graf attacked the loose ball and headed it just over Gallagher’s outstretched hand and inside the right post at 91:47 for the third-quickest golden goal in Bradley history. Graf also owns the record, scoring 35 seconds into overtime against South Florida at Dartmouth’s tournament Sept. 9, 2011.
Drake got the game’s first goal when Brian Grand whipped in a service from the right endline for an Addison Eck header at 9:37.
Bradley found the equalizer in the 25th minute on a play that started with a long throw from Andrew Brown. Drake initially cleared the throw back to Brown on the right flank, where the freshman midfielder sent a laser into the front of the goal. Drake’s attempt at a clearance fell to junior midfielder Scott Davis, who scored his third of the year at 24:19.
Brown’s first career goal put Bradley on top, 2-1, in the 62nd minute. Junior forward Ross Williams started the scoring play by sending Keegan Balle forward into the left flank. Balle appeared to be centering for Jason Lesch, but after both Lesch and Gallagher missed the hard roller near the left post, Brown raced in for the finish at an abandoned right post at 61:43.
Though Bradley finished the game with an 18-13 advantage in shots and allowed only four shots on goal, Drake mounted more-and-more pressure as the clock wound down and finally found the equalizer in the 86th minute when Jarred Arde ran onto a free ball at the top of the D and hit a rocket inside the left post at 85:02.
Having pushed its home winning streak to five games, Bradley will return to the road for its next three games, beginning with a Saturday night clash at #19 Creighton (10-3-2, 2-0-1 MVC). The Bluejays will enter Saturday’s game two points behind Bradley in the league standings with the outcome going a long way to determining the eventual MVC regular-season champion. Following the game at Creighton, Bradley will play non-conference games at Western Illinois and Loyola-Chicago, before hosting league rival Central Arkansas Nov. 3 in the regular-season finale.