Men’s soccer handed first home loss

The men’s soccer team rounded out their three-game series against top-25 teams Friday Sept. 18, at Hermann Stadium against the University of Denver Pioneers.  The Billikens 1-0, dropping to 3-2 on the season.  This was the Billikens’ first loss at home since the 2012 season.

Denver took advantage of the first good look they earned from a shot 15 yards out in the 13th minute.  They only had three total shots, two of them being on goal.

Three minutes later, SLU fouled, giving Denver a free kick right at the top of the penalty box.  They could not convert the shot into a stronger lead.

The Billikens earned a solid opportunity well into the half with a shot from freshman forward Anthony Brown that sprayed wide to the right.  A cross from the left foot of junior midfielder Joe Saad was snatched up by the Denver goalie in the 38th minute, stalling SLU’s offensive strike at the Denver backline.

SLU regrouped for the second half and made a few changes to the starting 11.  Seniors Marco Heskamp and Filip Pavisic, both experienced defenders, entered the game against a tough Denver team.  Pavisic got one shot off in the last 45 minutes but was not successful in tying up the game.  The Billikens only subbed in three players, and the same went for the Pioneers.    

The second half proved difficult for both teams offensively with hardly any shots, and even fewer on goal.  The Pioneers got a break away down field towards sophomore goalie Sascha Otte.  Otte was forced to foul, giving Denver a chance to increase the lead.  The men took no chances and formed a large human wall in front of the ball to block the shot, keeping the lead within their reach.

SLU could not get much going until later in the second half.  Junior forward Jair Minors blasted a ball over the top of the goal in the 73rd minute off a possession deep in Denver’s defending half.

The Billikens kept the pressure on for much of the end of the half, attempting to find ways to penetrate the Pioneers’ back line.

SLU earned a free kick in the 74th minute, taken by Saad, but the men could not get on the end of it to finish.  Minors tallied another shot in the 78th minute that was saved.  The last quality chance SLU earned to tie things up was a crossed ball sent in from senior midfielder David Graydon to Brown.  Denver held strong in the back and went away with the victory.  This loss marked an end to the men’s 14-game winning streak at home.

Head coach Mike McGinty feels that they did not come out strong enough, but they definitely had their moments to come back.

“I thought Denver started out more aggressive than us,” he said.  “ They were a little more determined.  They had one shot on goal and they scored a goal.”  SLU outshot Denver 5-2 in total shots, but each team only had one shot on goal.   

McGinty credits the Pioneers’ defense for being a factor contributing to SLU’s unsuccessful offense.  “They made it hard, and they didn’t give us a lot of good looks,” McGinty said.  “With the ones they did give us, we could have had a little more composure and tied it up.  It would have been nice to get one and then seen what happened. Denver didn’t make it easy and I don’t think we created enough in the final third to feel like we should have scored.”

The Billikens have two home games in a row this weekend and the following week.  SLU hosts Central Arkansas for their homecoming game on Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m.   They will continue to uphold the tradition of displaying fireworks at halftime for a crowd that includes alumni and families.

The men finish their non-conference play against Indiana on Sept. 30 at 7 p.m.  Conference play starts on October 3 at Rhode Island and back at Hermann Stadium against Dayton on October 7.