Perez leads men’s soccer to win

Jesus Perez

Jesus Perez scored two goals Saturday versus Milwaukee. Photo: Steve Woltmann

Jesus Perez scored back-to-back goals in the first six minutes, and the Flames held Milwaukee without a goal from the start of play, as UIC (2-5-1, 1-2 HL) posted a 2-1 victory Saturday night for their first Horizon League win of the season.

Sawyer Jackman allowed a goal on a penalty kick but made saves on both shots he faced. The win snaps a four-game losing streak for the Flames.

“It’s never easy to get a result against Milwaukee, having been seven years since the last time we won here,” head coach Sean Phillips said. “I’m very proud of the team. It’s been a long stretch of difficult results, but this group — all 28 guys — never lost faith, they kept fighting and fighting, and tonight they earned a reward against a very talented and difficult Milwaukee side.”

The Flames started fast, controlling possession from the outset. A second-minute free kick by Perez from 28 yards out hit the crossbar. At 3:23, Oscar Gonzalez scooted the ball ahead to Perez, who took it on the run behind the Panthers’ defense and beat keeper Freddy Lorenzen to the far post.

The Flames doubled up on another goal from Perez at 5:02. Gonzalez assisted again, finding Perez in space just outside the 18-yard box. Perez cut loose a laser beam with his left foot, again going to the far post with a shot that gave Lorenzen no chance.

The Flames continued to hold possession through the middle stages of the first half. Milwaukee began to mount some attacks of its own, forcing a clear by Jacob Graiber on a dangerous loose ball, and later a stop by Jackman on a deep advance.

The Panthers’ aggression paid off in the final minute of the half. They drew a penalty inside the box, and Vuk Latinovich converted the penalty kick to cut the Flames’ lead in half.

“We had a very bright start, and I thought we had a handle on the game for most of the first half,” Phillips said. “But against a team the caliber of Milwaukee, they will get some run of play and create chances. We had a breakdown, took a penalty, and allowed a goal, but in credit to our team, they found resiliency to get a result.”

UIC was able to execute several set pieces in the early portions of the second half. Milwaukee was booked for two yellow cards and seven fouls before the 60th minute, but none of the Flames’ action generated quality chances.

Milwaukee made concerted efforts to hold possession as the second half progressed. The Flames’ defense was up to the challenge, blocking the Panthers’ shots. Milwaukee had just one shot on goal in the second half and UIC was credited with four blocks. Many of those came from Joel Leon, who also was in position several times to disrupt Panther advances.

“Later in the game, Milwaukee applied pressure, and we bent but never broke,” Phillips said. “It’s good to get our feet under us and get a win in Horizon League play.”

The Flames face Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis at 6 p.m. Saturday in Indianapolis.

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