Men’s Soccer Comes Up Short in Physical Match Against Cross-City Rival UIC

The two programs know each other very well and have played every year dating back to 1990.

The Loyola men’s soccer team fell 2-1 Friday night in a hard fought match against cross-city rival University of Illinois-Chicago Flames. 

The Ramblers entered the contest 2-0-1 fresh off a 1-0 win over Oakland University Sept. 4. UIC made the short road trip uptown to Loyola Soccer Park coming off a surprising 2-0 victory over the Badgers of University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Flames entered play Friday sitting at 3-0-1 so far this season.

These two programs know each other very well as they have met in early season non-conference play every year dating back to 1990. Coming into this year’s match UIC led the head-to-head matchup in the rivalry 17-15-4. Head coach Steve Bode said after the game matchups like this tend to have a heightened meaning.

“Both teams really want to win and a lot of these players know each other, grew up playing together and played summer ball together,” he said. 

UIC opened up the scoring early when a foul near the top of the goal box by Ramblers third-year defender Julian Cisneros set up a free kick opportunity for UIC’s Jesus De Vicente. De Vicente, a third-year defender, rose to the occasion and with pinpoint precision snuck the ball past the Ramblers defensive line and goalkeeper Lucas Daunhauer to put the Flames up 1-0 in just the fourth minute of play.

Despite the quick UIC goal, Loyola was in near total control of the ball and pace of play in the early going. The Ramblers maintained possession for the majority of the first 15 minutes and had several shots on goal. UIC goalkeeper Oren Asher was credited with three saves in the first half, working hard to keep the persistent Ramblers offense off the board.

In the 16th minute Loyola fifth-year defender Andrew Schweinert burst past the UIC backline and received a crossfield pass with only the goalkeeper left to beat. As he was on the run he got a shot past Asher and in jubilation began celebrating with his teammates. The celebrations were cut short however as an offsides penalty was called on the play and the goal was taken off the board, keeping the Flames up by 1.

The Ramblers defense was suffocating in the first half. UIC only managed to push deep into Loyola’s side of the pitch a few times and were held to just two shots on goal both on free kicks following Rambler penalties. 

When the Flames did get something going the Loyola backline — led by stifling defensive play by first-year defender Noel Hannson and third-year defender Lukas Ender — repelled the attack almost immediately. First-year defender Grant Bailey also chimed in throughout the game, making an impact with his speed on both sides of the field.

The Ramblers offense finally broke through in the 28th minute when Cisneros sped past a Flames defender off a throw in. He launched a cross which found third-year forward John Gates who hit a header right in front of the goal where fourth-year forward Oscar Dueso was in the right place at the right time. 

Dueso reared back and kicked it past Asher, finding the back of the net and tying the game at one a piece. Both Cisneros and Gates were credited with assists on the play.

Bode said he was encouraged by how the team stayed focused after the early UIC goal and managed to respond with a goal of their own shortly after.

“I was happy with our players to work through that and get through that fast, because I thought we did, and then we didn’t dwell on it, and we moved on and got the equalizer,” he said. “I thought we maybe could’ve had another one going into halftime.”

The last 15 minutes of the first half were quiet as both sides struggled to get anything going and the defenses shut down opportunities to score. Coming out of the halftime break each side got called for early penalties — the physicality and chippiness of the game only increasing as the half went on. In the 49th minute Asher made a huge save preventing a potential game-tying Loyola goal on a free kick. 

As in the first, Loyola maintained possession for a large majority of the second half and kept the UIC defense on their heels applying near constant pressure. A series of Loyola fouls gave UIC their first real ball control of the half with around 30 minutes left to play. 

A Loyola foul in the 66th minute set up another free kick opportunity for UIC. Flames second-year defender Paul Brauckmann stepped up and placed it in the top left corner giving his team a 2-1 lead with just under 25 minutes to play. 

The fouls continued on both sides as the intensity of the match continued to be a defining feature. UIC was charged with 10 fouls in the second half and 13 in total while Loyola was whistled seven times in the second and on 12 occasions overall. 

In the 73rd minute UIC third-year midfielder Luka Nedic squandered a golden opportunity to extend the Flames’ lead. He found himself alone, staring at an open net and booted a shot way over the top of the goal. Loyola’s offense pushed hard off the back of the break but their momentum faltered after an offsides call with just under 15 minutes to play. 

In the 81st minute Daunhauer made a huge diving save to keep the deficit to just one. The Ramblers offense continued to press hard in the waning minutes but could not find anyone open on a series of crosses.

With just three minutes left on the game clock, Cisneros got a shot off which just barely sailed over the crossbar. 

Emotions were running high throughout the game and came to a fever pitch near the match’s conclusion when a few players on both sides began shoving each other in the waning seconds. When the final whistle sounded, both benches cleared and the coaches and referees had to break up players on both teams who were exchanging words in midfield. 

Bode explained some of the preparation the coaching staff makes before rivalry games which can have increased intensity and emotion after the game.

“Just try to talk about the process and performance and of course talk about emotional control, too, knowing it’s going to be a chippy game,” he said. “I thought our guys overall, for the most part, were emotionally in control and just focused on our performance and that’s what we try to do.”

Bode said he and the team were disappointed in the result but felt their performance in the first half was very high level. 

“We created a lot of chances and scored one,” he said. “Their keeper made some great saves to keep us at one. All in all, I wasn’t disappointed in our effort or the performance, it was just a difficult result.”

Off the heels of the tough loss, Loyola now sits at 2-1-1 and will turn their attention forward with the start of A-10 conference play just around the corner. 

Before conference play, the Ramblers will travel to Indianapolis where they will take on the Jaguars of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Sept. 12 with kick-off scheduled for 5 p.m. 

Featured image by Holden Green | The Phoenix

Griffin Krueger

Griffin Krueger