The second-longest unbeaten streak (12 games) for the Bradley soccer team finally came to an end. Last Saturday, the Braves (5-1-2) lost their first match of the season, 3-0, to the 2017 reigning Missouri Valley Conference champions, the University of Central Arkansas (3-3-1).
The match moved to an earlier kickoff time by three hours, due to forthcoming severe weather at the Bill Stephens Track & Soccer Complex. In addition, previous weather conditions that same day made the Bears’ home ground soggy.
The 2017 MVC Player of the Year Niklas Brodacki opened the scoring for the Bears in the 15th minute, with a ball down the right flank from teammate Christian Illia. While the Braves held the advantage in shots (8-6) in the first half, they were unable to find the back of the net.
Junior midfielder Saadiq Mohammed said that things went wrong for him individually and for the team, which led to the first-half advantage for Central Arkansas.
“I take the responsibility, I had the chance to make the game 1-0,” Mohammed said. “I missed the target and let the team down. As a collective team, I felt like we didn’t play well defensively and there were small defensive errors. We lost our collective identity.”
It took just over one minute into the second half for Brodacki to find the net again, scoring his second goal off a deflection in the penalty area. Alberto Suarez concluded the game with a goal of his own to go up 3-0 in the 74th minute. Sophomore defender Jake Bates received credit for both second-half assists for the Bears.
UCA concluded the second half with a 19-5 lead in shots. Bradley head coach Jim DeRose said that the game fell apart after the deflection goal leading into the second half.
“With it being 1-0 in the first half, that was an okay game,” DeRose said. “In the second half, they got a goal off a deflection and we missed our chances. In the later half of the game, they really piled it forward. Without Alex Ciaramitaro in the back, it was a challenge.”
Two Braves have officially sustained season-ending injuries this season, as both senior defender Alex Ciaramitaro and redshirt-junior goalkeeper Nathan Wisbey are injured. Ciaramitaro tore his ACL against Purdue University Fort Wayne on Sept. 14, and Wisbey fractured his arm in a recent training session collision, according to DeRose.
While this is disconcerting news for the Braves, DeRose noted the team will need to improve on set pieces and make it more difficult for future opponents.
“I didn’t think we were good enough in our attacking set pieces [against UCA],” DeRose said. “We didn’t have Alex [Ciaramitaro], who’s scored three goals resulting from those, and he’s one of our best players through his communication, marshalling of the defense and ability on set pieces. It’s a big void in one of our most important areas. I think we can adjust to the set pieces, but the run of play stuff is what we need to improve on.”
Bradley (0-1-0 in the MVC) will be hosting its second conference game on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Bradley Homecoming game versus Loyola University Chicago (0-0-1 in the MVC). The game will be followed by a firework show to conclude Homecoming week.