The woes of Bradley soccer (2-5-1) continued on the road against Illinois-Chicago (3-4-1) as they dropped their second conference match 3-0 to a wounded UIC team on Saturday.
After the Flames’ rough introduction to the Missouri Valley Conference against Drake, where they fell 1-0, UIC looked to get back to their winning ways while Bradley aimed to do the same after a loss to Belmost in their MVC opener.
“All the boys are super bought in to what coach DeRose is saying,” junior Erik Catus said. “Games like that really make a close-knit group.”
UIC started the first half with most of the possession and a plethora of chances, but were wasteful in the final third. The Flames caused all sorts of problems to the Braves’ defense, as they managed to register 14 shots in the first half compared to Bradley’s two.
While having lots of shots doesn’t always equal goals, it did in this case as UIC managed to score their first with five minutes to go before the half.
“Looking back at the film, it felt a lot worse than it was,” Catus said. “We were keeping them at bay and [goalkeeper] Nick [Burke] wasn’t really worried those first 40 minutes.”
The Flames got a spark after netting an early second half goal, leaving the Braves in a smoke screen of disbelief.
Bradley didn’t shy away after the second goal, looking to get back into the match and start generating some opportunities in the Flames’ final third. Sophomore Francesco Pettinaroli provided the Braves with fluidity, flowing up the pitch with his speed and positioning.
“Some of the guys came on and really gave us some good minutes,” head coach Jim DeRose said.
The match quickly turned into a cagey affair, as neither Bradley nor UIC came out with some congruent attacking danger. The Braves got more aggressive as minutes passed and found three of their players put into the book with yellow cards.
However, Bradley’s high press would leave them exposed in the back and UIC would ignite once again for their third goal of the night. The Flames would continue to burn after that, with no late consolation goal in store for the Braves like the week before.
Bradley soccer is back home tomorrow for homecoming weekend against one of the best teams in the MVC – and the country – in No. 22 Missouri State.
DeRose reiterated that it won’t be easy, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a fun one to watch at Shea Stadium.
“It’s like having to play Gonzaga in basketball,” DeRose said. “If you want to watch great soccer with a heavy international flavor, this is the one you want to come watch.”