The Valparaiso defense held Green Bay at bay for over 80 minutes Wednesday afternoon at Eastgate Field in Horizon League action, but the Phoenix pushed across a goal in the 81st minute and held on to defeat the Crusaders, 1-0.
“We put together a good effort today,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “We played better than we did last week. We’re continuing to grow as a team. At some point, though, we have to get results, and it’s going to be tough, as we have an unforgiving schedule ahead of us.”
The two squads played to a scoreless tie after 45 minutes of play, the sixth time this season in the first nine games that the Crusaders have held their opponent scoreless through the first half. The Phoenix out shot Valpo in the first half by a 14-3 margin, but only three of Green Bay’s shots were on net, as the Crusader defense forced many low percentage opportunities from outside the 18-yard box.
“Not just our back four, but our entire block of eight players did a great job keeping Green Bay out of the box,” said Avery. “We had them settling for shots from well outside, and it actually allowed us a few good counter-chances, which is what we were anticipating going into the game.”
The Crusaders found themselves with many opportunities early in the second half, getting a couple early corner kicks and then their best scoring chance of the game in the 57th minute. Oscar Lomeli (Jalisco, Mexico/ [Bethel]) found himself on a breakaway one-on-one with Phoenix goalkeeper Adam Stikl off of a long throw-in, but Stikl came out of his net and Lomeli could not get a clean shot off, as the ball trickled harmlessly over the end line wide of the net.
The game remained scoreless into the 81st minute, when the Phoenix attack found the back of the net. Tyler Rosenberg took a throw-in for Green Bay from 35 yards out, and put it into the 18-yard box. Francois Basty used a header to flick the ball over two Crusader defenders and onto the forehead of JC Banks, who headed the ball into the upper middle portion of the net over Valpo goalie Ryan Schwarz (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) for the game’s only goal.
“We’re getting to where we need to be,” said Avery. “Right now, we’re playing good soccer for 99% of the game, and then we have one mental lapse that ends up hurting us. We’ve got to clean up those lapses and make sure we’re focused for the full 90 minutes.”
Green Bay (5-2-2, 1-0-0 Horizon) ended the game with a 24-8 advantage in the shot category over the Crusaders, but only placed five shots on goal, while Valpo put two on frame. Schwarz ended the game with four saves, while Stikl made two stops for the Phoenix. Green Bay held a slight 7-6 edge in corner kicks, while Valpo committed 21 fouls to the Phoenix’s 16.
Valparaiso (2-6-1, 0-2-1 Horizon) will look to get back into the win column as it continues Horizon League play on Saturday, when the Crusaders travel to Milwaukee for a game under the lights. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.