NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Despite outshooting its opponent and gaining more chances on cornerkicks, the Belmont University men's soccer team fell 2-0 to the University of Evansville Tuesday evening at E.S. Rose Park as a pair of second half tallies by the Purple Aces proved to be the difference.
Belmont outshot the Aces 14-11 and earned nine corners compared to UE's two, but couldn't quite crack through in the end. With 14 shots against Evansville and 19 against Northern Kentucky, the Bruins recorded double-digit shots in back-to-back games for the first time since mid-September.
For the ninth time in its last 12 matches, Belmont was even at 0-0 with its opponent at the half, but despite the even count on the scoreboard the Bruins held an advantage offensively. Belmont tallied eight first half shots including two on goal as for the majority of the stanza it acted as the aggressor.
After some half time adjustments, the Aces came out more focused and broke through for a pair of scores in the early portion of the second half. Finding the back of the net in the 53rd on a counter attack the Aces opened the scoring before adding an additional tally in the 57th on a penalty kick.
"The last 30-35 minutes of the game were just a crazy chase. They did a great job, especially in the last 10 minutes, of killing the game making it hard for us to get anything going. Certainly in the first half I thought we were all over them, doing so many things well, but in the end in the final moment we didn't make the plays tonight and they did," said Head Coach Bryan Green after the hardfought loss.
In the first half especially Belmont looked like a well-oiled machine in its third, putting together numerous chances. One of the Bruins' best chances came in the 26th when Ben Santos-Meeker (Minneapolis, Minn.) ripped a shot on frame and Elliot Jones (Knoxville, Tenn.), corralling the rebound, missed high on the following volley. Again in the 36th the Bruins would come within inches of a tally but a header from rookie Jack Driscoll (New Albany, Ohio) clanged off the post and out. Dennis Kluba (St. Louis, Mo.) would managed to put a header on frame after earning possesion of the loose ball but the UE keeper made the save. In addition to these chances, Belmont had a handful of close-range free kicks that nearly resulted in a positive outcome. The Aces nearly scored with just a few ticks remaining on the first half clock, but Mertcan Akar (Cologne, Germany) made the save, one of his three.
In a similar fashion to the NKU match on Saturday, Belmont looked like the better side in the first half only to see its opponent capitalize for a second half tally and walk out of Nashville with the win.
Despite losses in its last two matches, the Bruins have showed signs of a strong attack as they have carried play against NKU and Evansville.
"We've been more committed running forward, which we've worked on a bit. I think it's more of a committment that were going to run forward and be aggressive off the ball. We've encouraged guys to reward the runner, and that's helped create chances that have resulted in cornerkicks," said Green. "We're right on the door step, I just think we need the confidence that comes from scoring that first goal. We pushed to the very end tonight, knowing that if we got that first goal, the second one could be right there with it."
With just three matches remaining, all of which are conference contests, the Bruins have a chance to climb the league standings and remain focused on finishing the season strong.
"We have to just keep getting better. As close as we are, I think we just need that one goal and it would help open up a lot of things for us in the last three games," remarked Green.
Belmont returns to Horizon League action this Saturday, Oct. 22 when it travels to pre-season favorite Oakland.