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Bradley soccer season ends after loss against Missouri St.

Midfielder Pepe Mellado dribbles. Photo courtesy of Josh Schwam/Bradley Athletics

The Bradley men’s soccer team’s season ended last Friday after losing 1-0 against No. 10 Missouri State, the team with the nation’s longest active winning streak at the time, in the MVC Championship semifinals.

The Braves employed a conservative strategy during the first half to try and keep the game close. The idea was to minimize the number of opportunities created by Missouri St. and wait for the right moment to counterattack. 

Bradley did not allow many shots on senior Bryce Logan’s goal during the first minutes of the game, but in the 32nd minute of the match, Missouri St. found the break point as Josh Dolling headed the ball into the back of the net after a cross to give the Bears the lead. 

The Braves tried to tie the game, but Missouri State’s defense was remarkable, not allowing a single shot during the first 45 minutes of the game. 

The Braves were forced to attack more during the second half. However, the story was the same as Missouri State’s loaded box made it nearly impossible for the Braves to get a good shot on goal and they finished the game with only one shot on target. 

Bradley lost the game by a one-goal difference, but the score did not reflect the way Missouri State dominated the game. The Bears had 14 shots and nine corners, but failed to find the net on multiple occasions. 

Bradley’s defense did not let the Bears increase their lead and gave them the opportunity to fight until the final whistle, even generating some dangerous plays at the end that were not capitalized on. 

Bradley head coach Jim DeRose said his team did a good job keeping the ball away from Missouri’s top-scoring players, a wise strategy when playing a team with high-quality players on top. 

“For us, our game plan is to kind of really narrow the game, so make the ball go into wide areas,” DeRose said. “[Our plan is to] turn them into a team that has to serve the ball rather than shoot in and around the goal, build a little bit of a barrier so that the ball has to go through their central defenders and their outside backs, which are good players, but they are not their great attacking players.” 

Missouri State moved on to play Evansville in the championship game on Nov. 14, where they beat the Purple Aces 3-0 and joined Creighton, SMU and Central Arkansas as the only programs to win back-to-back MVC tournament titles.

After playing an entire season with one of the nation’s youngest teams in Division I soccer, DeRose thinks there are many positive takeaways and learning moments from the past season. 

“The number one stride we made is just knowing our team, learning what system might work best for the players that we have,” DeRose said. “Just really learning our personnel, getting the guys systematically in where we think they did best and then knowing what our strengths and our areas of improvements need to be.” 

DeRose is looking forward to competing next season as the team will have a solid squad defensively and more experience. 

“Every team changes, but we should hopefully have a good group in the spring to build on,” DeRose said. “Drake loses 11 seniors, Missouri State loses eight seniors; hopefully we are going to be in a place now where we are going to have some depth and we are going to be able to have experience and hopefully then we can integrate in and go from there.”

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