Flames grab regular-season Horizon League title
The UIC men’s soccer team captured its sixth Horizon League regular-season title Saturday with a 4-1 over Belmont University in Nashville.
The Flames scored four goals in the first half from Manny Chavez, Jorge Alvarez (2) and Marco Alvarez to keep their unbeaten league record in place.
With the victory and 20 points in conference play, UIC (9-4-3, 6-0-2 HL) secured the No. 1 seed and will host the semifinals and championship of the Horizon League Tournament, Nov. 12-14, at Flames Field. This is the second time in three seasons the Flames have won the regular season after earning the title in 2013.
The Flames close the regular season Friday, hosting Cleveland State at Flames Field at 7 p.m.
“We knew coming in that a complete performance was necessary. Belmont was coming off of two positive road results,” said head coach Sean Phillips.
“Our passing, which has been good of late, was complimented by some good finishing today. Aside from a few moments, we were solid defensively again. All in all, a very positive performance that ended in three points and the Horizon League regular season championship.”
In the match against Belmont ((4-12-2, 1-6-1 HL), UIC was a force on offense led by Jorge Alvarez with four shots, two goals and one assist. Goal scorers Chavez and Marco Alvarez also had assists, with Max Todd and goalkeeper Andrew Putna getting the other helpers. Eleven UIC players contributed 16 shots and six on goal.
UIC controlled the first half with a shot margin of 11-5. The Flames scored four goals to mark the most goals scored in the first half since a 5-0 win against Florida Gulf Coast in 2007.
On the first shot of the game six minutes in, Chavez took a cross from Jorge Alvarez and chipped the ball in the back of the net for his fifth goal of the year. Four minutes later in the 10th minute, Alvarez got one of his own as he got in behind the defense and scored from inside the 18, with Marco Alvarez and Putna earning the assists.
The attack balanced out until the 27th minute, when Jorge Alvarez scored his second goal of the game after passes from Todd and Chavez. It marked his second multi-goal game this season and the third of his career.
Belmont converted to get on the board after Rashad Hyacenth, who had eight of the Bruins’ 10 shots in the game, scored off a cross from A.J. Arnold in the 38th minute. Marco Alvarez came back two minutes later to put UIC up again by three with his second goal of the year.
Neither team could create chances 20 minutes into the second half of play; both took five shots in the final 25 minutes.
After attempts from Oscar Gonzalez and Joel Leon went off target, Thomas Villamil recorded a shot in the 74th minute that resulted in the first save of the game for the Belmont keeper. On the Flames’ next look nine minutes later, Piotr Lagowski took an attempt that resulted in a save. The last shot of the game, by Roberto Torres in the 89th minute, went wide.
Putna made just one save in the game as he earned his third assist of the year on the game-winner. With one goal allowed, his goals-against-average moves to 0.83 with a 0.58 mark in conference play.