Men’s soccer splits exhibition matches

Jorge Alvarez

Junior Jorge Alvarez took the game-winning shot Aug. 20 versus Saint Louis. Photo: Steve Woltmann

The men’s soccer team opened play last week with a split decision in its exhibition matches.

The Flames beat Saint Louis, 3-2, in its exhibition opener Aug. 20 but fell to Bradley, 3-1, Sunday.

The team opens the regular season at 7:30 p.m. Friday, hosting Cal State Fullerton in its first of three-straight matches at Flames Field.

UIC scored three goals off four shots in the second half in the Aug. 20 victory against Saint Louis. Junior Jorge Alvarez headed in the game-winner off a pass from freshman Nathan Laude in the 73rd minute.

“With it being preseason, we want to balance it out to make sure our performances are good and the direction the team is going is good,” head coach Sean Phillips said.

“The first half was a little disappointing, credit to a very good Saint Louis team for that, as they came at us and did an excellent job. In the second half, credit to our team. We played like a team and started to remember what made us successful individually and collectively last year with our transition, our tackling and our ability to get into the attack and combine in the right parts of the field.”

In the first half of play, the Billikens drove in an early goal in the ninth minute when Josh Kohring scored off the corner kick from Marco Heskamp. UIC battled for possession and made four shot attempts, with two on goal by redshirt-junior Zack Judickas and junior Joel Salmeron, as Saint Louis was held to three shots.

The Flames came together in the second half and tied the game just four minutes into play in the 49th minute as senior Jesus Torres connected with freshman Sergio Fuentes for the equalizer. Ten minutes later, freshman Jose Fuentes who scored the go-ahead goal off a pass from Salmeron.

In the 73rd minute, UIC went up by two on what proved to be the game-winning goal as Alvarez headed in a pass from the far right wing by Laude. Saint Louis scored its second goal off the corner kick in the 83rd minute on a header by Justin Graham from Joe Saad.

“Players all across the field and all across the experience spectrum played a role in tonight’s game and it was great to see,” Phillips said.

In Sunday’s loss versus Bradley,  Alvarez scored for the Flames in the 24th minute off a pass from redshirt-senior Michael Stankiewicz, but the Braves came up with three goals in the final 17 minutes to take the win.

“There were 73 minutes of pretty positive play,” Phillips said. “Credit to Bradley, they kept pushing, which is one of the reasons why they have been a very successful program over the last several years.”

UIC came out in the first half and pressured the Bradley defense, putting up eight shots with five on goal.  Alvarez scored from Stankiewicz in the 14th minute take the 1-0 lead, which they held onto for 50 minutes of play.

The Braves were limited to four shots in the first but they came out in the second and made nine attempts, with UIC taking another eight shots.  After keeping the match at 1-1, Bradley scored two late goals to win the match.

“We need to find a way to prevent a few plays and to make a few plays before Friday, but the preseason has been good as a whole,” Phillips said. “We have learned a lot about players, today and in the last two games, and I think we’ll be able to put our players out and shorten the bench a little bit.”

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