Soccer opens league play Saturday

Bob Novak

Bob Novak made three shots in the first half against Michigan State. Photo: Steve Woltmann

Men’s soccer begins Horizon League play Saturday, hoping to start another winning streak after its six-game run was halted by No. 25 Michigan State earlier this week.

The Flames host Cleveland State at noon at Flames Field, rescheduled from the original 7 p.m. start.

UIC created chances to score Tuesday night at Flames Field, but Michigan State  netted two goals in the second half to break the Flames’ six-game winning streak with a 2-0 victory.

The Flames move to 6-3-0 on the season, with their first loss since Sept. 6 against DePaul, 3-1.

“It is always tough to lose, especially after being on such a positive streak of six-consecutive wins, five of which were shutouts,” head coach Sean Phillips said.

“To get the result against a very experienced and talented Michigan State side, we were going to have to be a little bit sharper in all areas than we had been the past month.”

UIC came out in the first half and tallied six shots, including three on goal by senior Bob Novak, sophomore Joel Salmeron and junior Jesus Torres, forcing Michigan State’s sophomore goalkeeper Zach Bennett to make the saves.  The Flames held the Spartans to six shots in the half, with just one on goal saved by freshman goalkeeper Andrew Putna.

Michigan State kicked off the second half with a strong physical presence, collecting 12 fouls.  The Flames answered with five additional shot attempts.

“I felt we put forth a good effort  and created enough in the attack that we could have scored a couple of goals, either from the run of play or our attacking restarts,” Phillips said. “However, to credit MSU’s backline, we were missing that final pass from the run of play and bit of conviction on our attacking restarts.”

Off six attempts in the second, the Spartans scored in the 57th minute with a rebound shot by junior Adam Montague and in the 74th minute by freshman Dewey Lewis.  Putna made two more saves to finish the match, while the defense assisted in blocking four of the Spartans’ 12 shots.

“In even games like this, set pieces can often be the difference,” Phillips said.  “Michigan State had been very good on those of late.  We had been showing such progress in our discipline and conviction during our defensive restarts and were pretty good tonight except for two moments.  MSU, unfortunately, took full advantage of the two times we lost our focus and made the difference in the game.”

The soccer team hosts Eastern Illinois at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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