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Fordham hosts St. Francis Brooklyn in NCAA Tournament’s NYC soccer clash

Fordham and defender Owen Lawrence will host fellow Big Apple school St. Francis Brooklyn on Thursday. / Fordham and defender Owen Lawrence will host fellow Big Apple school St. Francis Brooklyn on Thursday.

Pivotal soccer matches are still happening in the Bronx, even after its pro club’s season has come to an end.

Two local collegiate powerhouses, Fordham and St. Francis Brooklyn, will face off in the first round of the NCAA men’s soccer tournament at 7 p.m. Thursday at Coffey Field.

“It’s great for the New York soccer community as a whole,” Fordham head coach Jim McElderry told amNewYork. “For both teams in the past, when we both made the NCAA Tournament, we’ve been sent on the road and it’s been difficult for people in New York to see an NCAA Tournament team. Hopefully, this helps the environment because one of us is going to be moving on.”

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Neither team is a stranger to the tournament. The Rams (12-5-2) are playing in their fourth consecutive tourney — their first as an at-large selection from the Atlantic 10 — while the Terriers (14-4-1) have been NEC champions in four of the last five seasons. The winner advances in the 48-team bracket to face No. 11 seed Virginia (12-3-5) on Sunday.

“It’s going to be a really fun game in that both teams have kind of been around the block and have been in big games before in the NCAA Tournament and their conference tournaments,” McElderry said. “The occasion won’t be too big for either of the teams and, because of that, I think it’s going to be a good game.”

Fordham’s top contributors on offense are German brothers Janos and Jannick Loebe. They’ll contend with St. Francis goals leader Ali Tounkara, a junior whose scored eight times this year. McElderry believes his team can handle the Terriers’ top threat.

“We’ve played a lot of good center forwards this year,” he said. “It’s a big part of when we play in our conference, we have a lot of great attacking players that challenge our defenders all the time.”

With so many talented goal-scorers, McElderry expects a tactical battle on the pitch.

“If you look at the way they [St. Francis] have scored some of their goals, they’ve scored a lot of set pieces,” he said. “Both teams will have make good decisions on when to step in and win tackles.”