NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Belmont University men's soccer team played to a 0-0 draw in double overtime against Memphis Friday night.
On the first night of NCAA men's soccer play, the Belmont squad kicked off what is shaping up to be an exciting 2017 season. The Bruins, who have 19 newcomers, are hoping to become a cohesive unit on and off the pitch to culminate a successful campaign. "The newcomers have meshed well so far but it is a continuous journey of building and cultivating relationships. The returners have done a great job of integrating them and being leaders on and off the field to help the newcomers feel welcome and understand what we are about," said Head Coach Bryan Green.
The first match of the regular season was incredibly physical right out of the gate. Junior keeper Alex Seeley (Longmont, Colo.), who protected the Belmont goal for the duration of the match, came up with an early save in the eighth minute to keep Memphis off the board.
The first attack from the Bruins came in the 16th minute when Matteo Bennati (Genova, Italy) made a shot from the center of the box, but Memphis keeper Jake Leeker made an incredible save to keep Belmont scoreless.
The Tigers seemed to settle in after the early attack from the Bruins and held posession for most of the half.
Belmont defenders senior Adriano Balani (Durres, Albania), senior Dan Brown (Franklin, Tenn.), and Freshman Itzik Efraim (Even Sapir, Israel) were invaluable as they held the Tigers to three shots on goal in the first half.
Play was incredibly aggressive with 21 total fouls and two yellow cards a piece for Belmont and Memphis at halftime.
Both teams came out ready to play in the second half with the first few minutes being a defensive battle.
In the 61st minute, Memphis put together a nice play when a cross from the left side was played beautifully to the right post where the head of a Tiger was waiting, but the shot flew wide left.
Shortly after in the 64th minute, Bennati, put his second shot on goal, but Leeker was there yet again. Bennati was the true offensive force of the Bruins' squad Friday night. In the 70th minute he made a brilliant cross from the right side, but there were no Belmont red jersey's there to capitalize on the play.
In the 72nd minute, Memphis' Edgar Alaniz gave the Bruins another scare when he blasted a strong shot that went wide.
The second half continued to see aggressive play with a lot of back and forth action with the ball going from attacking third to attacking third.
The Tigers found a late surge, largely holding possession and threatening the Belmont goal for the last 10 minutes.
In the last 40 seconds of the game, junior Adam Voloder (New South Wales, Australia) took control of the field and flew past several Memphis defenders and put a strong cross to the feet of freshman Ares Marlonsson (Thornton, Colo.), but the Memphis keeper was there to save a late game winning goal.
With no score after 90 minutes, the Bruins and Tigers would head into a golden goal overtime period.
The Bruins once again came out hot and in the 91st minute of the match, freshman Esteban Lestido (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.) shot a high floating ball that nearly crossed the goal line, before Leeker snatched the ball to deny Lestido of the goal.
In the 95th minute the Tigers threatened to end the game, but Seeley was once again there to keep the Tigers off the board.
The Bruins looked to be working as a cohesive unit in overtime, but were not able to capitalize on any of their chances.
Still being scoreless after one 10 minute overtime period, the squads entered a second 10 minute overtime period.
In the 102nd minute the Bruins attempted to capitalize on a corner kick, but were unable to keep possession of the ball after a lot of contact in the box saw no call.
The second overtime period was all Belmont, but the Bruins never could get the right strike and put the ball in the back of the net.
The game ultimately ended in a 0-0 stalemate.
Throughout the game, Belmont had 13 corner kick opportunities and many restart opportunities, but couldn't capitalize. The Belmont squad looked good, but there is room for improvement. "Two things we need to work on are restarts and defending. It was great we got the shutout, but we had way too many fouls. We need to be able to defend without committing fouls. We also need to be able to capitalize on our restarts. We had 13 corner kicks and several other restarts from dangerous areas. We need to score when we get that many," said Green.
Even though the Bruins have a lot to work on, Green is excited about what he saw tonight. "We were able to get a shutout in our first match. That is a great thing to build on. We also created a lot of quality chances. Memphis' goalkeeper came up big 4 or 5 times to keep us off the scoreboard. I also like how we battled and worked for each other. That is something you can do whether you are playing well or poorly, so that was a big positive."
Belmont will be back on the pitch at E.S. Rose Park Sunday afternoon to take on Niagara at 1:00 p.m. CT.