Belmont men’s soccer was unable to convert any of its six shots on goal in a 2-0 loss to the University of Illinois Chicago Saturday.
The match marked the start of Missouri Valley Conference play for the Bruins this season as they entered with a 3-1-2 record of non-conference play.
Going into the match, Belmont had a 20-match undefeated streak at home, the second-longest streak in the nation.
But at the start of the match, UIC took control of the match instantly after junior Bart Muns scored a free kick in the seventh minute.
From there, the Bruins couldn’t seem to break through the Flames defense and get any offense going for the entire first half.
Sometimes, the Bruins would have their offensive attempts stopped before they could get a shot on goal.
Other times, the UIC goalkeeper would stretch out, save the ball and continue securing that 1-0 lead going into halftime.
Opening the second half of play, the Bruins seemed to strike from all angles as they came out of the half with a more aggressive gameplan, adding pressure to the Flames.
In the 76th minute, senior Ayden Von Essen seemed to have found the equalizer after a cross from senior midfielder Michael Saunders.
But the header couldn’t find its way past the UIC goalkeeper, still denying the Bruins the opportunity at securing the tie.
UIC then looked for that second goal that would almost certainly put the game out of reach for the Bruins.
In the 81st minute, junior goalkeeper Grant Calvert was able to deflect a Flames’ shot attempt off the post.
Right after, it looked like Calvert was able to save an attempt on goal from Muns.
But the official ruling was that the ball had crossed the goal line, giving the Flames the 2-0 lead they were searching for and Muns his second goal of the night.
The Bruins were unable to find the goal, going scoreless to finish the game.
The first time they’ve been unable to get on the scoreboard this season.
Head coach David Costa said that despite being shut out, the Bruins looked more confident on offense in the second half.
“I think we had some player rotations in the second half that forced the game a little bit more and got us in the attacking half easier,” Costa said. “I think in the second half, we generated a lot of chances. We generated a lot of good balls inside the box that we just didn’t get on the end of.”
Costa said his team seemed to never be in control of the game from the beginning.
“They really kind of forced the game in the first half, and I think they dictated the pace. They found a great early goal that kind of turned the game a bit,” Costa said. “I thought we responded well in the second half, but overall, we were chasing the game the rest of the way.”
The next match won’t be any easier for Belmont.
The Bruins travel to Missouri State University on Friday.
The Bears are the four-time defending MVC regular season and three-time defending MVC Tournament champion.
Costa said he knows it won’t be an easy match, but the Bruins will do all they can to match the physicality.
“Missouri State has obviously been the top team in the league for the last several years. But we’re going to work on us for the first couple days and then start preparing for Missouri State later in the week,” Costa said. “But they’re always excellent. We’re going to have to be up for the physical side of the game.”
This article was written by Ty Wellemeyer