Braves fall to Zags in opener

Goalkeeper Brandon Barnes made his debut with the Braves vs. Gozaga, recording four saves. photo via Bradleybraves.
Goalkeeper Brandon Barnes made his debut with the Braves vs. Gozaga, recording four saves. photo via Bradleybraves.

The Bradley men’s soccer team was unable to win its season-opener, falling 2-1 in extra time against Gonzaga University.

Both teams were originally scheduled to attend the Houston Baptist University Invitational; however, it was cancelled due to tropical storm Harvey. As a result, Bradley and Gonzaga quickly scheduled a replacement match to kick-off the 2017 season at Shea Stadium.

The start of the game was slow for both teams, with few goal-scoring opportunities in the first half. The Bulldogs were able to converge first, though, scoring in the 29th minute of regulation.

Though he let the opening goal sneak by, goalkeeper Brandon Barnes made some impressive saves in his debut, which included stopping a breakaway early in the second half.

“Brandon really showed up,” head coach Jim DeRose said. “He handled every cross cleanly, had great distribution and also made the huge breakaway save.”

According to DeRose, Barnes previous playing experience is what makes him so valuable to the Braves.

“He’s a graduate transfer from Seton Hall and battled with fellow goalkeeper Albert Reinwart throughout preseason for the start,” Derose said. “Both goalkeepers will be utilized this year, but Brandon’s background in the Big East Conference and four years of [collegiate] training showed in preseason; his experience got him the start.”

The Braves equalized with an 88th-minute header from sophomore forward Roman Schindler, forcing the game into extra time. Junior forward Frank Bak earned the assist on the play as he crossed the ball into the box, which Schindler capitalized on from 10 yards out to score in his Bradley debut.

DeRose said he has high expectations for Schindler this season, which includes being the Braves leading scorer.

“He played a year in Germany before transferring here, and we’ve liked everything we’ve seen from him,” DeRose said. “His work ethic and athleticism is coupled with a good soccer acumen. When he gets a partnership with the other guys it helps out, because he knows how to score goals. He’s already scored one goal, and the leading goalscorer [senior Richard Olson] last year scored three. I expect him to exceed this.”

The Braves struggled offensively last season, and even with the additions they made to the offense, they still had trouble finding the back of the net in this during this game. Bradley could not capitalize on several opportunities to take the lead in extra time, and the inability to score cost the Braves the game as Gonzaga took the lead in the 177th minute.

Despite being outshot by their opponents 13-4, 6-1 on-target, DeRose said he was impressed with what his team had to offer.

“I think for us, one of the things we’ve improved on is adding more talent on the offensive side,” DeRose said. “Schindler and freshman Younes Dayekh are already doing good things, and freshman Garit Wintermeyer will be able to play by the fourth or fifth game.”

The Braves will look for their first win at the ProRehab Aces Soccer Classic in Evansville, Ind. this weekend. Bradley plays against Northern Illinois University on Friday, Sept. 1 and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Saturday, Sept. 3.