The Valparaiso University men’s soccer team opened Missouri Valley Conference play with its third road game in six days in three different states, rounding out a long journey with a 3-1 setback to Missouri State on Wednesday afternoon in Springfield, Mo. A challenging trip concluded with a conference-opening test against preseason favorite Missouri State, a team that is flawless at 5-0-0 through five fixtures.
How It Happened
- The Bears got off to a strong start, scoring twice in the first nine minutes. Stuart Wilkin sent a strike from the top of the 18-yard box into the lower right corner of the goal on an assist from Josh Dolling in the sixth minute.
- The second goal came from Ian Jones, who struck one from just outside the goalkeeper area into the lower right on an assist by Will Osgathorpe.
- Valpo settled in as the first half moved along, as the defense limited the Bears to three shots the rest of the way after the initial pair of goals. Dolling placed two strikes on goal in the 30th and 32nd minutes, but freshman goalkeeper Edvin Holst (Stockholm, Sweden / Viktor Ryberg Gymnasium Jaraplan) corralled saves.
- A strong close to the half was highlighted by a Michael Cushing (Orange, Calif. / Villa Park) goal that sliced the lead in half in the 33rd minute. Vukasin Bulatovic (Elmwood Park, Ill. / Elmwood Park) sent a long cross from the near corner into the box to set up Cushing, who zipped it into the lower right corner past goalkeeper Michael Creek.
- Holst made an excellent diving kick save to deflect away a penalty kick by Dolling in the 57th minute. Dolling hit the ball straight on with Holst heading into a dive, but the young keeper was able to recover to knock the effort away with his trailing leg.
- After several strong efforts were turned away, Matthew Bentley extended the Missouri State edge to 3-1 as the Bears took advantage of a 3-on-2 with Bentley serving as the middle man. Aadne Bruseth notched the assist.
- Bulatovic had a strong strike in the 83rd minute, but Creek reacted with a quality save, and the Valpo rebound try sailed high.
Inside the Game
- The Cushing goal was just the second scored against Missouri State in five matches this season. Valpo joined Tulsa as the only teams who have dodged clean sheets against Creek and the Bears’ back line.
- Cushing’s goal was his second of the season and the third of his career. His first goal of 2019 came on Sept. 2 vs. IU Northwest.
- Bulatovic achieved his second assist of the year with his first coming on Sept. 2 vs. IU Northwest.
- Holst finished with five saves to boost his season total to 24.
- The teams battled hot temperatures in the low to mid 90s throughout the day. Water breaks were taken in both halves.
Thoughts from Head Coach Mike Avery
“I’m really proud of the group today because there is no denying that the team has not been set up for early season success by the schedule we’ve played. We have faced four teams in a row, all on the road, and three of the four in less than a week. The combined record of those four teams is 21-2-0, and SMU is a Top 10 team in the national rankings with the other three knocking on the door and getting votes. That’s a hard schedule.”
“And, I’m glad we’ve played it. We’ve never been shy about going on the road and challenging ourselves, and as long as I’m the boss, we never will be. That’s why guys choose to play for Valpo, because they want to challenge themselves. We will grow from this opening stretch.”
“We were a bit soft at the start of the game and Missouri State made us pay for that, so credit to them for taking the advantage. When we finally started to find our shape behind the ball, we played pretty well and created chances. At 2-1 we felt pretty good about our ability to climb back in the game, and even right up to the end we still generated clear chances that we need to convert.”
“It’s now a long drive home, but I know everyone is excited for a few games at Brown Field and to apply the lessons we’ve learned so far.”
Valpo (1-4-1, 0-1-0) will host its first home match of the Valley slate on Sunday as Evansville comes to Brown Field for a 1 p.m. kickoff. The fixture will be carried on ESPN+ with live stats also available.