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September 21, 2023

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Men’s soccer falls 1-0 to Zips for 2nd consecutive year

The BG men’s soccer team began Mid-American Conference play against defending conference champion Akron for the third straight season.

Last season’s bout against the Zips was much of the same for the Falcons. On the road, the Falcons fell 1-0 after an Akron goal just before halftime.

This time around the Falcons conceded an early goal after a penalty in the box. This “bad play” led to an Akron penalty kick of which they finished in the lower corner of the net, head coach Eric Nichols said.

“When you’re losing by just a penalty it’s really unlucky,” junior midfielder Ryan James said. “Our defenders were playing solid and our front line was defending really well too, but they finished the chance they got and it ended up 1-0.”

The Falcons were bummed about the penalty kick, but they understood that they are part of the game, so they just kept trying to bounce back, sophomore midfielder Joe Sullivan said.

Though they were trying to bounce back, they were unable to as the early goal nearly 16 minutes in proved to be the difference in the game as the Falcons lost 1-0 to the Zips for the second consecutive season.

Often kicking the ball long and putting pressure on the Zips’ defense, the Falcons were able to create offensive chances throughout the game.

However, the Falcons were unable to finish the array of chances that they earned, despite hitting six of their 11 shots on goal.

“We wanted to get at their back line. We thought that there were some holes back there and wanted to press them a little bit,” Nichols said. “I didn’t think their back line could deal with more of a direct style and with our front four buzzing underneath I’m kind of shocked we didn’t get one to be honest. We were really dangerous.”

This game plan of kicking the ball long has represented the season for the Falcons.

Not often winning possession, Nichols said his team understands it can be dangerous if its get to the back line quickly, often using one pass and then pushing the ball down field.

This is especially true when the Falcons are finishing their chances on frame.

“We like to get to the back line as quick as we can, but this group didn’t allow us that first pass, so we were trying to penetrate right away,” Nichols said. “We went into the game knowing that they were going to possess it more than us, so our game plan really wasn’t that much different than usual, it just got exacerbated by our opponent.”

Akron was getting through the defense a little too easy in the first half, so they made some changes at halftime to help negate some of the success they were having in the middle, Nichols said.

These changes ultimately helped the Falcons out in the second half, playing a better over the final 45 minutes.

“The first half was a little shaky, but we reorganized, saw where our weaknesses were and that’s where we tightened up,” James said. “We cleaned it up in the second half and it turned out well for us. We got our chances, now we just need to finish.”

The Falcons were unable to put a ball in the back of the net, despite their halftime adjustments.

This has been a recurring issue for the team as of late.

After beginning the year with 22 goals in seven games, the Falcons have followed it up with just three goals over the next five games.

After the loss on Friday, the Falcons are now 9-3-0, 0-1-0 in the MAC.

“We need to make sure that we recognize when we’re on because that’s what’s working for us. And we need to figure out how to make it on more so we can get the shots on the net,” James said. “The crossing is what’s been working for us and it gets us a lot of goals so we need to continue getting the ball to someone who can get it on target.”

Despite the loss, Nichols is confident in his team, so they will continue to fight toward their preseason goal of winning the MAC.

“We’re a really good soccer team and I saw more of that today,” Nichols said. “They’re warriors; they fight for each other and they fight for BG.”

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