No. 1 soccer keeps winning streak alive

Aris Zafeiratos

Aris Zafeiratos scored the game-winner Friday against Valparaiso. Photo: Steve Woltmann

The soccer team hits the road today to take on Oakland at 6 p.m. in Rochester, Mich.

The Flames collected a come-from-behind win Friday night at Brown Field to defeat Valparaiso, 2-1, and remain unbeaten in Horizon League play.

Senior Aris Zafeiratos scored the game-winning goal and his first of the season in the 80th minute to lift the Flames to their sixth straight win.

With a 5-0-0 first-place record in the Horizon League, UIC improves to 12-3-0 overall, marking the first time the team has won 12 of its first 15 games since 1999. Valparaiso moves to 3-6-5, 0-3-2 Horizon League.

“We came out very well in an environment that has traditionally been very difficult and created some positive pressure early,” head coach Sean Phillips said.

“Valpo, though, brought a great mentality, created some dangerous opportunities and deserves credit for being opportunistic in taking their goal.”

Despite strong possession in the first half, the Flames fired off just four shots by senior Slobodan Aleksov (3) and freshman Joel Leon (1), while receiving two offside penalties to prevent further opportunities.

Freshman goalkeeper Andrew Putna was able to make two key saves in the early minutes of the game, before the Crusaders’ Kevin Klett came in to knock the ball past Putna in the 42nd minute for a 1-0 lead.

UIC began the second half with four shots in the first 10 minutes of play, causing Valparaiso’s goalkeeper Tom Serratore to make a save against redshirt-senior Josh Beard.  UIC continued to create chances and, in the 70th minute, sophomore Kyle Lindberg netted the equalizer for his fourth goal of the season.

“At halftime, we spoke of a few simple adjustments and reminders about finding our success in simpler plays in the wide areas of the field and getting our backs a bit more involved in the attack,” added Phillips. “The players brought those changes into the second half. However, the most important part of what we brought to the second half was the belief that we were going to find a way, which we did.”

With the match tied at 1-1, the Flames continued to plug away and broke up the Crusaders’ passes to start their counterattack.  After missing wide, Zafeiratos came back in the 80th minute to score his first goal of the season, assisted by junior Jesus Torres and sophomore Jorge Alvarez, for the game-winner.

UIC held a 13-8 shot advantage against Valparaiso after nine attempts in the second half.

Putna made four total saves off of Valparaiso’s five shots on goal to improve his save percentage to .750, while allowing one goal for a 0.78 goals against average this season.

“I am very proud of the maturity and inner strength that is developing in this group,” Phillips said. “We still have a number of important challenges ahead of us.”

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