A goal in the seventh minute proved to be the difference Sunday afternoon at Brown Field, as the Valparaiso men's soccer team dropped a 1-0 decision to visitng Western Illinois.
"I'm a bit frustrated because I felt we played well today," said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. "But you have to give Western Illinois credit - they found a way to get the early goal and eventually come out with the win. All of our possession and the stylistic way we played doesn't count for anything - we have to figure out a way to score goals."
The Leathernecks came up with the game's lone tally early on, starting with possession in their own defensive half as Charlie Bales sent a long ball over the top towards the 18-yard box. Crusader goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West) rushed out to the edge of the box to try to play the ball, but the ball never reached the box, and Western Illinois' Mario Alvarez raced on and flicked a header over the charging Zobeck and into the back of the net.
The Crusaders controlled the game for the most part, out-shooting the visitors 14-4 and earning seven corner kicks to WIU's one. But Valpo put just two shots on goal, with Yves Dietrich making saves for the Leathernecks in the 49th and 72nd minutes to preserve the clean sheet. Zobeck also made a pair of saves for the Crusaders in the losing effort.
"These early games are great for giving us lessons we can learn from to get ready for the next game," said Avery. "The reality is we're replacing an entire back line, including two All-Region center backs. I think for the most part, our backs have played well so far and are getting better, but it's understandable there are going to be bumps in the road, and a few fixes in term of cover and balance could have prevented what we felt was a soft goal from our perspective. But the ultimate goal is to be hitting our peak come league play, and playing teams like Western Illinois which went to the NCAA Tournament last year present great opportunities to prepare oursleves."
Valparaiso (1-1-1) flies out west this week for a pair of matches in California, opening the two-match trip at UC Santa Barbara on Friday night at 9 p.m. CDT. Live stats for the matchup against the Gauchos will be available through www.valpoathletics.com.