An 8-by-24 goal is only big enough for one man to guard, but today, there will be two vying for a starting spot between the posts for the Hoyas. Both sophomore Matt Brutto and redshirt freshman Mark Wilber are options Head Coach Brian Wiese could employ in goal for Georgetown’s Big East home-opener against South Florida.

On paper, Brutto would be a sure-shot as the first choice in goal; having started nine out of 19 games last year as a freshman and supplanting with then-senior keeper Joe Devine (MSB ’08) as the regular keeper, the Pennsylvania native has a clear advantage over Wilber, who saw no game action last season.

“Last year . I did what I had to do for the team,” Wilber said. With Devine and Brutto alternating play and giving good performances, Wilber had to watch from the sidelines.

But, Wilber’s patience has paid off – although the season is still young, he has already emerged as a worthy competitor to his more experienced teammate, seeing just as many minutes of play and matching him almost save-for-save statistically. “This year is great; it feels great to get out there and play a bit,” he said.

It seems as if Wiese, a former college goalkeeper himself, has almost perfected the system he uses to split the playing time between Brutto and Wilber. With just one goal conceded in six games so far – that too, off a deflection – Wiese seems to have the keeper combination down pat.

“I couldn’t be happier with our situation,” Wiese said. “You have two goalies that are looking better and better. . They push each other; if you’ve got one strong goalkeeper and nobody to push them, usually the starting goalkeeper suffers.”

But in this case, the healthy competition between the keepers has provided incentive for both men to bring their A-game to every match, resulting in stellar displays in goal no matter who dons the gloves.

“It’s actually nice to have competition,” Brutto said. “Just like I pushed Joe Devine last year, Wilber’s pushing me this year, and I’m pushing him in turn. And, we have [freshman goalkeeper Erik Garciamendez], who is doing well and making us work hard to keep up our game.”

“We were curious to see if one was going to emerge above the other,” Wiese said, “and so far they haven’t. Both guys are doing their job, and as long as that happens, we’ll keep giving them both minutes.”

The Hoyas are at an advantage for having two keepers of such caliber; both of them have a distinct style of play, which gives the coach some options when presented with different styles of offense.

On the one hand, Wiese has the option of playing Brutto, who plays the part of the defense’s tactician – almost like a military general – organizing the back four so that they are almost impermeable to the approaching attack. “He’s a very smooth goalkeeper,” Wiese said. “He handles many of the nuts and bolts that maybe don’t get noticed in stats. He does a good job of organizing the team in front of him and preventing a lot of shots from being taken.”

Brutto is also solid in the air, with safe hands and a keen eye for incoming corners and crosses.

And on the other hand, the coach can start Wilber, the 6-foot-4 New Mexico native who, surprisingly for his size, is extremely quick to dive and block point-blank shots. “If you’re lining up 10 balls top of the box and shooting on Big Wilber, it’s very hard to get by him,” Wiese said. “He’s very good that way. He’s also very aggressive; in one v. one, he’ll kill people coming out for them because he’s so aggressive – but he does it very cleanly and fairly.”

Thus, Brutto seems like the ideal candidate to go up against a team that is known to base their play off steady buildups – with the ability to read the game and position his defenders accordingly, he would be key in preventing a strong buildup from ever reaching its conclusion. Wilber, in turn, would be perfect against teams with dangerous individual attackers – strikers who prowl dangerously close to the box, leaping on any loose ball they find to blast it at the back of the net. The not-so-gentle giant’s quick reflexes and fearless attitude to one-on-one situations would make for excellent shot-stopping.

Wiese said he did not think that either keeper lacked what the other had going for him. “To be fair, I don’t think either of them is deficient in the other’s category either,” he said. “Matty’s a heck of a shot-stopper as well, and Wilber does a good job of organizing and managing. But I think if you’re talking about their strengths, that’s where their strengths lie.”

When asked if he had made up his mind about who to start in goal against USF, the coach replied in the affirmative, but refused to reveal any names. “South Florida is around, and you never know if they’ll pick up the newspaper,” Wiese joked. “If I don’t know who they’re starting in goal, I’m not letting them know either.”

Any guesswork would be in vain, since the two keepers are equally capable of being on the starting 11. Last year, it was Brutto who bore the brunt of the USF attack – the Hoyas went down 4-0 to the Bulls in the preliminaries of the Big East playoffs last February, and Brutto hasn’t forgotten. “It is a little bit of a game where we want to get back at them,” he said, “but we have to keep in mind that last year’s game happened last year, and this is a completely different game with different players.

“Regardless of who it is that comes on our home field, we’re going to come out flying against them.”

And with either of the two goalkeepers guarding the posts this Friday, the Hoyas have a good chance of putting another zero up on the board for goals against.

“As of now, I think we have two of the best goalkeepers in the country,” Wiese said.

The Hoyas will kick off against their Big East rivals Friday at 3 p.m. on North Kehoe Field.

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