Belmont University’s men’s soccer team faced off against the University of North Carolina Asheville in the first home game of the regular season Thursday, kicking off a three-game homestand in Music City.
Belmont played to a 1-0 win over their opponent, a decisive and much-needed win after a difficult stretch away.
Men’s head coach David Costa left the field satisfied with his team’s performance against UNCA. “It was a really collective effort. They really went after us, so for our guys to play through that pressure at the right times and bypass them at the right times was really impressive.”
With Bruins coming home following two losses and a tie, Costa felt excited to return to E.S. Rose Park, he said.
Costa takes pride in playing at home, and he is glad his players finally get the advantage of sleeping in their own beds before a game, he said.
After the Bruins’ loss to Central Arkansas University Sunday in Conway, Arkansas, Costa focused on organizing his team and finding the best squad for his next opponent. Costa expected Niccolo Dagnoni and Liam O’Brian to play key roles in the offense with Michael Saunders as an advantage on the wing, he said.
The coach’s game plan for Thursday’s match was to take advantage of the flanks.
“We’re trying to exploit the wide space against them,” he said. “They’ve played a five-three-two in their first two games and we’re just trying to make sure we can exploit the pockets that they give us.”
Throughout the game, the Bruins stuck to the plan. Belmont primarily used the wings in its attack, and with great success as the team produced six solid chances — twice the amount of UNCA — before the halftime whistle.
The second half played out the same as the first. The team advanced on the wings and eventually, sophomore midfielder Michael Saunders made a beautifully placed shot into the top left corner of the net to put Belmont in the lead.
“I was just trying to get into a one-on-one position out wide,” Saunders said. “I saw him coming at me and the angles were right, so I went to the right and just shot.”
On top of his deciding goal, Saunders’ performance on the field was impressive, Costa said.
“Mikey’s a really good one-on-one player. We did a good job to release him on that flank, and once he cut inside, obviously it went in for him.”
By the end of the game, Belmont had outshot their opponents 11-4, and goalkeeper Drew Romig only needed to make one save the entire game — a testament to the Bruins’ excellent control of possession and solid defensive play.
“John Bannec, Eric Stiles, Jack Shaw, Case Cox: the back four was excellent tonight in how they handled transition attacks,” Costa said. “Drew Romig did a really good job too today, to make the one or two saves he had to make when he didn’t see much of the ball.”
Despite the win, Costa recognized an area in need of improvement: finishing in front of the net.
“When you create that many chances, it just changes the game when you score goals,” Costa remarked. “If we score one of those, I think we had five missed chances in the first half, it’s a different game in the second half, you know. It makes them open up a little bit more, and now creates more opportunities.”
Looking forward to the next game, men’s soccer moves on to match up against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville at E.S. Rose Park on Monday.
“We recover right now and start rolling and worrying about SIUE on Monday, but we got a couple days to train and rest and make sure we get our legs back under us,” Costa said.
PHOTO: Sophomore defender Case Cox at Thursday’s game / Photo by David Pang
This article was written by David Pang