Flames fight hard in season opener

Sloboan Aleksov

Slobodan Aleksov connected on a header in Sunday’s match. Photo: Steve Woltmann

The soccer team fought tooth and nail against No. 13 UC Santa Barbara Sunday at Flames Field, but a lone goal in the first period by the Gauchos proved to be the difference.

“I think our overall performance was good considering the fact that we played a nationally ranked opponent for our first regular season game,” head coach Sean Phillips said.

“The lesson we have to take away is that if we want to beat these programs, then we have to take our chances.”

The Flames out-shot the Gauchos, 6-5, and had two strikes on goal in the 1-0 loss.

Senior Slobodan Aleksov connected on a header  in the first period that bounced off the crossbar and out of play.  Junior Jesus Torres nearly scored in the second half on a hard kick less than 10 yards in front of the net but it went straight into the arms of the UCSB goalie.

“In many instances our players went toe-to-toe with them and I thought we created some pretty good chances,” Phillips said.

“We are going to have to find a way to score some of those goals.

“Our passing was not as sharp as it was in the preseason and credit that to Santa Barbara.  It was a very good initial gauge for our guys.”

The nonconference matchup featured nine yellow cards, including seven for the Gauchos.  In the second half, Tim Vom Steeg, their head coach, was ejected after receiving his second yellow card.

The Flames resume action at 7 p.m. Friday, hosting DePaul at Flames Field.

The team hosts Western Michigan Sunday.

“It’s important for us to have home games during the early portion of the season,” Phillips said.

“This allows our newcomers to gain some confidence and help them balance their athletic and academic responsibilities. Our fans will have the chance to see some great home games this season.”

Horizon League play begins Oct. 5 against Cleveland State.

UIC hosts Milwaukee, Wright State and Green Bay this season and makes road trips to Detroit, Valparaiso and Oakland.

“I think this will be the most competitive year of Horizon League soccer in recent memory,” Phillips said.

“Oakland is a great addition to the league and I think we are finally getting the national recognition we deserve as a conference.”

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