Soccer makes Flames history with latest win

Soccer players celebrating

Flames celebrate Sunday after winning their 14th match this season. Photo: Timothy Nguyen/UIC News

The men’s soccer team came away with its eighth-consecutive victory Sunday, the first time in Flames history that the team has won 14 matches in the regular season.

The 3-1 win against Drake at Flames Field, which came after UIC scored two goals in the final 10 minutes of regulation play, puts the team’s record at 14-3-0 (6-0-0 HL). Drake drops to 8-7-3 (3-1-1 MVC) after losing its last two games.

Senior Aris Zafeiratos scored the game-winning goal in the 83rd minute, while senior Slobodan Aleksov recorded his fourth two-goal game of the season.

“We knew coming in Drake would be a tough opponent,” said head coach Sean Phillips.  “They are a top 50 RPI team and competed well against several teams and they have gotten big wins on the road. It does not surprise me that they were as talented of an opponent as they are.”

Not a lot of chances were presented on either side in the first half of play, with the Flames leading the shots battle 5-3.  In the 28th minute, Aleksov came in to score the first goal of the game off a rebound pass from senior Bob Novak.

UIC continued to plug away in the second half, where the physicality picked up — 10 fouls, one yellow card and one red card were assessed before the first shot was taken.

Despite being down a man after a red card to Jarred Arde in the 53rd minute, Drake came in to tie the game in the 79th minute with a goal by Logan North.

“The funny thing about soccer is that once you get that red card on the other team, it is sometimes more difficult to break the opponent down because they play with even more conviction and fight,” Phillips added.

“When you take a team like Drake, that already has a lot of conviction and fight, if you are not careful, they will punish you.”

The Flames put forth their best effort in the last 10 minutes of play.  Zafeiratos attacked the net and put the Flames ahead in the 83rd minute with his second goal of the season and Aleksov came in five minutes later in the 88th minute to score his second goal of the game and ninth of the season off cross-field passes from Zafeiratos and freshman Rodrigo Salgado.

“The best thing about our team today was our response,” said Phillips.  “Since giving up that goal, I thought we played our best soccer of the match from that minute on.  Aris (Zafeiratos) has been good for us a large part of the year and it was nice to see him get that goal.

“Even at 2-1, Drake was fighting and if they got that game-tying goal, it would have been even more difficult.  But our captain (Aleksov) came up and really buried the game for us with that finish.”

UIC ended the match with a 16-8 shot advantage, 5-3 SOG, while Drake tallied the most fouls with by a 19-14 margin.  Freshman goalkeeper Andrew Putna made two saves and allowed one goal to move his season GAA to 0.75. Drake’s Darrin MacLeod made two saves while taking the loss for an 8-4-2 record this season.

The Flames return to Flames Field for their final regular-season match Saturday, hosting Green Bay at 1 p.m.

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