Flames hang on for 1-0 shutout over Valparaiso
After junior Joel Salmeron scored in the sixth minute, the men’s soccer team (5-2-2, 1-0-1 HL) held off No. 25 Valparaiso (5-2-3, 1-1-0 HL) in the remaining 84 minutes of play to collect a 1-0 shutout victory Wednesday night at Flames Field.
The team stays home Saturday to host Detroit (4-4-1, 1-1-0 HL) at Flames Field. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
With the win, the Flames pick up their first Horizon League victory of the season while posting their fourth shutout and improving their home record to 4-0-1. UIC outshot the Crusaders, 12-11, while Valparaiso owned a 7-4 margin in shots on goal.
“Any time you win a conference game, it’s great,” head coach Sean Phillips said. “This is the best Valpo team we have faced since I got here in 2005. They have always been well coached and difficult to break down. We knew we were going to have to be very good to get a result.”
Salmeron’s goal, assisted by junior Jorge Alvarez, was his first of the season. In the sixth minute, Alvarez dribbled down the left side and dished the ball to the center of the box, where Salmeron connected and shot the ball into the lower right corner. The goal was the first shot taken in the match.
“It was nice to see Salmeron get his first goal,” Phillips said. His performances the last three games have been excellent, beginning with DePaul, then Oakland and again tonight.”
The Flames took four more shots in the half with several quality chances, while the Crusaders made six attempts with three reaching on goal.
UIC came out in the second half to fire off three shots in the first 10 minutes before Valparaiso took possession. On a corner kick in the 62nd minute, the Crusaders were awarded a penalty kick after UIC redshirt-junior Zack Judickas received a red card in the box. Zev Taublieb took the shot for Valparaiso, but sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Putna came up with the diving save.
“Andrew (Putna) made a big save and he has been coming up big for us all year. He also dealt with a couple of free kicks very well and his distribution was good out of the back,” Phillips said.
Down a man with 28 minutes left to play, the Flames defense stood strong and held the Crusaders to three shots the rest of the game. UIC made three attempts of its own, besides a penalty kick in the 85th minute after a trip in the box. Freshman Sergio Fuentes took the shot, but it was saved by Valparaiso’s keeper Nico Campbell before Fuentes sent the rebound over the net.
“The character and discipline in this group was again shown,” Phillips said. “They dealt with adversity very well.”
Putna matched his career high set earlier this season with seven saves, bringing his season total to 39 with a .830 save percentage. He picked up his fourth shutout of the season and improved his goals-against average to .820.