Creighton Men’s Soccer controls South Florida in 2-0 win
Having righted the ship on the west coast in a 3-0 win over Cal, the Creighton men’s soccer team returned home to face the South Florida Bulls for the 6th annual Socctoberfest event at Morrison Stadium in downtown Omaha on Friday night. No longer ranked, Creighton was taking on a USF team full of newcomers.
The game against USF began with a packed Morrison, with fans lining both ends behind the goals. The Bluejays didn’t give the fans much of a show the first 15 minutes of the game, however. Both sides spent time finding the flow of the game before the Bluejays began to create pressure, sending in a dangerous cross from the left-flank towards CU’s Marios Lomis that forced USF’s Harrison Devenish-Meares to come out and claim the ball. The Bulls countered with a dangerous attack of their own, sending in a pass for forward Avionne Flanagan that Creighton goalie Michael Kluver dove on, sending Flanagan flying over the top. Shouts for a penalty were waved off by head referee Khalaf Al-Latayfeh. The attacks continued when Creighton’s Luke Haakenon played a nice one-two with Lucas Stauffer down the left-flank before Haakenson’s low cross towards the penalty spot fell agonizingly short of an oncoming Bluejay.
The first shot of the game came 25 minutes in from Creighton’s Ricky Lopez-Espin. He took on his defender down the middle of the field before his shot rocketed over the top of the USF goal. Minutes later a CU free-kick sent the USF backline into a scramble, with Creighton eventually knocking the ball over the goal line, drawing cheers from the crowd. The assistant referee had his flag raised for offside, however.
The remainder of the first half saw a lull fall over Morrison Stadium, with neither team having control or creating much outside of a comfortably claimed cross. It wasn’t an unfamiliar sight for Creighton head coach Elmar Bolowich, whose team has been held scoreless in two of their previous four games. A Bluejay free-kick with five minutes remaining was taken just three yards outside the left-hand side of the box. The cross though was met with courageous defending from a USF defender, who sent the ball clear. The first half ended with a well-worked attacked from the Bulls. It could have easily been 1-0 to the visitors when a cross from the left-hand side of the field flew past Kluver’s outstretched arms and just out of reach from a surging USF Bull.
The second half began brightly for the Bluejays when junior Swedish midfielder Joel Rydstrand sent a tantalizing cross into the box for Lopez-Espin, who directed the ball towards the corner of the USF goal where Devenish-Meares was equal to it. It was the best chance of the game for either team and it came less than two minutes into the second period. Creighton’s pressure continued with a Rydstrand cross from a free-kick near the box, resulting in a chaotic clearance from the USF defense.
In the 59th minute, USF forward Bradley Farias had a half-chance when the ball fell to his feet just ten yards out but he couldn’t get around the ball and his effort sailed wide of Kluver’s goal. With an hour gone, both teams were knotted at just four shots each. That changed in the 62nd minute when CU’s Haakenson took on his defender down the left-hand side and slotted past Devenish-Meares, sending Haakenson into celebration mode in front of the Creighton student section.
Haakenson continued his stellar play with a dazzling display of footwork to maintain possession near midfield shortly after his goal. He even had a decent effort from 25 yards out that left the USF goalie Devenish-Meares guessing as it sailed over his crossbar. Haakenson drew a loud applause from the west stand when he made a tremendous effort to save a would-be goal kick and turned it into a cross. No Bluejays were close to the center of the box though and USF cleared.
Other Bluejay players soon began to get in on the second half action. A nice buildup from Creighton led to Portland Timbers Academy product Anthony Macchione sending in a dangerous cross from the right that Devenish-Meares claimed at the feet of a Bluejay attacker. Macchione followed up the effort with a half-volley from the top of the box that he sent wide to the left of the USF goal.
Creighton’s relentless attack continued in the 82nd minute when a cross sent from Noah Franke on the right flank found freshman Kuba Polat, who slotted home past a helpless Devenish-Meares to make it 2-0 in favor of Creighton. Polat, a Ludwigshafen, Germany native, received a loud applause from the home fans when he was subbed off a couple minutes later.
The Bluejays saw out the remainder of the game with ease, earning their second win in a row and third overall. Creighton’s ability to control possession has to be one of their strengths as they limited the Bulls to just six shots for the entire game. While the Bluejays may not have tallied up a large number of shots on goal, it was a comfortable win. The victory moves the Jays to 6-0 on Socctoberfest night.
USF, a Tampa-based school, will fly to Atlanta tonight where they will wait out Hurricane Irma. The Bulls fall to 1-3 with the loss. Meanwhile, the Creighton Bluejays will begin Big East conference play when they travel to Indianapolis to face the Butler Bulldogs on Sept. 16.
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