Bradley soccer (2-4-1) came up short during their Missouri Valley Conference opener against Belmont (3-1-2), losing 2-1 in a nail-biting affair.
Bradley sophomore captain Reed Rogers saw the result as a promising first step going up against the second best team in the conference, according to the MVC preseason polls.
“We’ve had a tough time on the road this season,” Rogers said. “We just wanted to stay in the game as much as possible.”
This isn’t the Bruins’ first time in the MVC, losing to Bradley 4-1 in Nashville on Oct. 8 as an affiliate during the 2000 season.
Despite some good forward movement from Bradley in the first few minutes of the game, a free kick header allowed Belmont to deal the first blow in the first 10 minutes of the first half.
Making matters worse, Braves junior forward Jack Douglas had to be taken out of the match with an injury in the first half after deflecting a Belmont shot.
“He’s being evaluated right now and we won’t know if he will be available until game time against UIC,” head coach Jim DeRose said. “He was causing Belmont a lot of trouble thanks to his size and his work ethic, so he was someone hard to bench.”
After more hard-fought battles on the wings and in the air, the score remained 1-0 going into the second half.
As the Braves looked for their first, Belmont scored their second early on when the Bruins’ offense laid a cross into the goalkeeper’s box. While the ball was in the air it deflected off a Bradley defender and into the path of Belmont senior Liam O’Brien, burying the Braves in a two-goal deficit.
However, after controlling the ball for a few minutes,, the Braves had a spark of energy in the 79th minute when sophomore Patrick Fishburne stepped up to take a free kick and converted with 10 minutes left to play.
“[Fishburne] has been hitting a couple of free kicks before practice and he likes to think he’s the set free-kick taker,” Rogers said. “I think he was up for the game because his parents flew all the way from California, so he was ready to play.”
The tempo of the game changed immediately and Bradley got another golden opportunity to level the playing field in the waning minutes. When a long throw-in left sophomore Michael Rogalski with an open net, the ball hit the interior of the goalkeeper’s right post and left the danger zone, leaving the Braves with another close loss away from Shea Stadium.
The Braves head to Chicago to face the UIC Flames this Saturday at Flames Field. Bradley is looking forward to this game as UIC lost their last contest against Drake and the game is an opportunity to finally break their streak of misfortune on the road.