Bradley soccer isn’t feeling the heat ahead of a key match against Evansville tomorrow afternoon.
The Braves fell in a 1-0 decision against No.18 Missouri State in their homecoming match on Oct. 2, but a closer inspection of the razor-thin loss shows good along with the bad.
“If I’m being honest and fair, Missouri State was probably our best performance that this young group has put together,” Bradley head coach Jim DeRose said. “The end result is a loss, so you’ve got to get out of the moral victory speech here, but [it was one of our best performances] when you look at all of the analytics, numbers, all of that.”
A rainy forecast did not deter the Bradley faithful from filling Shea Stadium in what is usually the venue’s highest-attended soccer match of the season.
The Braves and Bears traded blows for 90 minutes in front of 1,125 fans, with a 29th-minute strike off a free kick from Missouri State junior Kian Yari marking the game’s lone score.
Inside the loss, the Braves’ seventh of the season against two wins, statistics were more kind to the youngest team in the nation. Owing to Bradley’s strong defensive effort, senior goalkeeper Bryce Logan did not record a save as Missouri State was held to just eight shots.
None of those shots were on goal, and Yari’s score resulted from a 20-yard free kick following a Bradley penalty.
“I think they’ll always bring a big effort,” DeRose said about his young team. “They’ll always work hard, they’ll always defend both sides of the ball. For us being so young, [we showed] what we can do in the transition moments and I thought we did a good job with that on Saturday night.”
Looking at the Braves from a statistical perspective, Bradley’s 2-7 record is not quite indicative of how the team has played this year.
Junior Pepe Mellado and sophomore Jack Douglas have keyed the Braves’ offense this season with two goals apiece. Additionally, 60 percent of the shots that sophomore Danny Collins has taken have been on goal, with one of those finding the net.
Defensively, the Braves have only allowed more than two goals once in nine tries this season as Logan has earned nearly twice as many saves (31) as goals allowed (16).
“About three or four games ago we moved [Douglas] up and converted him into a forward,” DeRose said. “He’s 6-foot-3, great in the air [and] has a great work ethic. He’s changed us a bit, to be very honest.”
Tomorrow’s match at a winless Evansville squad represents a potential turning point for the Braves. Sophomore midfielder Pablo Guillen has scored two of the Purple Aces’ five goals this season, though DeRose is keeping the scouting report more broad.
“Evansville is always going to be able to keep the ball, they’re always going to be able to possess the ball, they’re always going to be able to string passes together,” he said. “And when they’re doing it really well, they can do it against anybody.”
The Braves square off with Evansville at McCutchan Stadium tomorrow at 2 P.M.