Men’s Soccer edges Central Arkansas 3-1 on Homecoming

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Men’s Soccer edges Central Arkansas 3-1 on Homecoming

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Homecoming certainly was sweet for the men’s soccer team, as they defeated Central Arkansas 3-1 on Saturday in front of 5,483 fans.

SLU came into the game off a tough 1-0 home loss against nationally ranked Denver.  Central Arkansas was 1-6 on the season and 0-3 against the Billikens over the last three years at the Bills’ homecoming game. The Billikens were ready to defend their home field once again with a confident mindset and the fans at their backs.

Both teams came out strong for the initial portion of the first half.  SLU continued to poke and prod at the Central Arkansas defense.  The Billikens earned a corner in the 17th minute, and sophomore midfielder Max Karcher finished it off the left foot of senior midfielder David Graydon. This marks Karcher’s second goal and Graydon’s 22nd assist of their respective careers. Graydon is now in the top three in the NCAA for most career assists of active players.

The Billikens continued their high energy and press throughout the first half.  Junior midfielder Joe Saad got a cross off in the 29th minute to find the foot of junior midfielder Jair Minors, who buried the ball in the back of the net from 12 yards out.

Central Arkansas was not ready to throw in the towel in the first half.  The Bears found an answer in the 35th minute with a blast from 20 yards out to get past sophomore goalie Sascha Otte and to the left post.

The first half concluded with a Billiken lead of 2-1, and the traditional fireworks display gave the fans a break from the action-packed game.

The men headed into the second half to finish what they started.  The duo of Minors and Saad also had more in them for the attack. In the 56th minute, Saad struck another cross from the left flank, giving Minors the ball at the 10-yard line, which he placed into the back of the net.  Minors now has three career goals.  He also had the team-high six shots (four on goal) in the match.

The Bills outshot the Bears 19-9 and gave up a single corner kick in the 90 minutes of play.  Senior forward Faik Hajderovic had five shots and three on goal; senior defender Filip Pavisic found an offensive streak this game with three shots and two on goal.

Minors commented on the ups and downs of the last week and the difference in energy between the Denver game and homecoming.  “I think the main thing for us was the energy was definitely here tonight and the support helped with that,” he said.  “Having anger and being upset after the loss to Denver just pushed us to do well.”

Head coach Mike McGinty agrees on the difference in atmosphere and level of desire from his players.  “I think it was a great night.  The fans came out and the guys were really excited to play in front of the crowd,” he said. “There was probably a shot or a couple more goals out there, but I think the team did really well.”

The Billikens continued into the week to face another competitive program on Wednesday: Indiana.  The men had another large crowd (6,062) at their backs — the second largest in SLU men’s soccer history.

Minors and Saad continued their streak into the match from Saturday, when Saad crossed the ball from the left side and found Minors for a finish to take the lead in the 21st minute.

Only four minutes later, the Hoosiers answered with a well-placed shot to the far post to tie the game up.

Just when it appeared that the game would be tied going into halftime, Indiana scrambled to get a cross off with 20 seconds to go in the half and finished with a header.

SLU struggled to penetrate the Hoosiers’ defense throughout the second half.  However, the Billikens fought to the very last minute to get up the field and whip in a cross off the right foot of Hajderovic. Senior forward Vince Cicciarelli got a touch on the ball first and kept it going to freshman forward Anthony Brown, who tapped it into the back of the net.

The match went into overtime, and both teams had quality chances on goal. But, the Hoosiers found the back of the net first in the second overtime period to hand the Billikens their second home loss of the season.

McGinty commented on the hard-fought battle between the two teams.  “I thought it was a gutsy performance.  Our guys showed a lot of heart and fight,” he said.  “I don’t know if we were really aggressive enough until late in the game, and then we got the goal, but overtime was disappointing obviously.”

However, he, as well as the rest of the team, knows the importance of looking to the next game and preparing for conference.  “We just have to recover.  We don’t have time to dwell on this one.  I think there are some positives we can take out of this, things we can learn, but we have to get ready for Saturday.”

The men head out to the east coast to face their first Atlantic-10 conference matchup, Rhode Island, on Oct. 3.