Although a late goal almost spurred a comeback, the Belmont men’s soccer team ultimately fell in a 2-1 contest to James Madison in its home opener Friday night.
“If you can get a goal at any point before the game ends when you’re down two, you have a chance to get a second. But James Madison did an unbelievable job after they gave up the goal to kill the game,” said Belmont coach Bryan Green. “But we did a good job getting numbers forward in the second half to get us real chances.”
The night got off to an unfortunate start for the Bruins in the fourth minute when a misdirected touch from the defense resulted in an own goal and early 1-0 lead for the Dukes.
Despite the setback, the Bruins continued to press numbers forward and maintained possession in the attacking third.
However, the Dukes found their stride on a counterattack with a four-pass sequence that ended with the goal from Josh Grant in the 23rd minute to double the lead.
“We’re still figuring out how not to beat ourselves. You can even look at the second goal as a defensive breakdown,” said Green. “But the one guy we pointed out in the scout was number 11, and Grant scored on us.”
In the 37th minute, freshman Rashad Hyacenth made a fancy move inside the 6-yard box to earn a shot that was barely cleared by the James Madison keeper Kyle Morton.
The Bruins finished out the first half with a couple of key crosses but couldn’t capitalize inside the box.
While James Madison earned a pair of corner kicks to start the second half, Belmont fed off the energy from a record-breaking home crowd at Rose Park and the bench play from the freshmen players.
In the 52nd minute, freshman defender Dan Brown had a chance to put the Bruins on the board, but his shot sailed high.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation, Hyacenth nearly found the back of the net with a well-timed header off the free kick by Nat Hubert.
It didn’t take long for another chance to come along for Belmont. In the 85th minute, Adriano Balani scored his first collegiate goal unassisted off a rebound from the Bruins attack.
Moments later, Brown nearly tied the game on a far-post cross from Hubert. However, James Madison shut down the chance of a comeback and claimed the 2-1 victory.
Hyacenth led Belmont with five shots on the night where the Bruins outshot the Dukes 10-4.
“We just talked about it at the half, and we came out working even harder. We were just pressing and pressing and pressing,” said Hyacenth. “So the goal was going to come eventually. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to come up with a second or a third one.”
Belmont closes out the 2014 Belmont Invitational on Sunday when the Bruins host Gardner Webb at 2:30 p.m.