Men’s soccer team welcomes 16th-ranked Michigan State to Cochrane Field Wednesday night

Brandon Shrider and Brandon Shrider

The BG men’s soccer team faces its toughest challenge of the season as number 16 ranked Michigan State comes to Cochrane Field for a mid-week bout.

The Falcons have been successful to date, holding a 6-1 record and outscoring their opponents 22 goals to five.

However, despite the early-season success, the Falcons’ combined opponent record is just 12-19-7. Duquesne is the only team with a winning record the Falcons have faced. The team’s lone loss this season came to that Duquesne team.

The Spartans are 4-1-1 on the season and have yet to lose a match on the road.

Thus, the mid-week game will feature an array of problems that the Falcons have yet to face this season.

“It’s going to be a different game than this for sure,” head coach Eric Nichols said. “It presents so many different challenges. It’s a Big 10 opponent.”

One of the many challenges the Falcons will face is the Michigan State defense. The Spartans have allowed just two goals through eight games, outscoring their opponents 10-2 on the season.

The tight defense will be one that the Falcons have yet to witness, evidenced by their 3.14 goals-per-game average.

Despite the new challenge, the Falcons will continue to prepare the same way they have all season.

“We have to do the same thing we’ve been doing for every game,” senior Vlad Lekarev said. “Every team for us is a championship game, we just have to come out strong and not lose our focus. They’re a big team, but we’ll have the same game plan.”

The team’s preparation has worked thus far in the season, giving the Falcons their best start since 1995.

The Falcons have not broken into the NCAA top 25, but the team received votes in the Top 30 National Poll for College Soccer News for the first time this season.

Additionally, the Falcons have featured the player-of-the-week in three of the four weeks this season.

Sophomore Pat Flynn has been responsible for two of the awards, as well as a spot on the College Soccer News’ National Team of the Week.

Flynn remains atop the NCAA leaderboard for goals scored with 12, including at least one goal in six of seven matches, which is more goals from a BG player for an entire season in 18 years.

Flynn and the Falcons will take the field against one of the better teams in the nation as they look to remain undefeated in the friendly confines of Cochrane Field.

“You have to come out and be strong, you can’t just flip a switch every game,” Flynn said. “They’re one of the best teams in the nation, so it’s a great opportunity for us to show that we can really play with them.”