Nothing like the first time
Men’s soccer gets elusive ‘W’
Junior forward Richard Craven’s (8) goal in the 39th minute ended Buffalo’s nearly month-long scoring drought, and gave the Bulls their first Mid-American Conference victory, a 1-0 win on Friday at UB Stadium. Spectrum File Photo
It was a weekend of firsts for the men's soccer team. The Bulls earned their first shutout of the season, scored their first goal in nearly a month and earned their first conference win of the year.
On Friday, Buffalo (3-10-1, 1-4 Mid-American Conference) hosted conference rival Florida Atlantic (2-10-1, 0-4 MAC) and came out victorious by a score of 1-0 at UB Stadium. The team had been in a drought, outscored in its previous four contests 12-0. Buffalo brought a different approach to this contest, relying on its defense and goalkeeping to generate quality scoring chances.
"We concentrated more on defense today," said head coach David Hesch. "We really packed it in the back and let Florida Atlantic come and then we counter attacked them. That really paid off for us. We limited their shots on goal and when they did take a shot, it was an outside chance."
In the 39th minute, the Owls attacked the Bulls' defense and lost possession of the ball. Buffalo gained possession and senior forward Joey Merlow crossed the ball to senior forward Maksym Kowal, who used his dribble to draw the goalkeeper out of the net and then passed to junior forward Richard Craven. Craven hammered in the decisive goal.
"The ball came across and Rich was right there," Hesch said. "Rich has a great nose for the goal. It is a luxury to have a center midfielder that you can put at the top at times. He does a great job around the box."
Craven's goal was UB's first in nearly a month. The Bulls' previous score was also in a home victory, versus Albany (5-10) on Sept. 21 - their last win before Friday.
Hesch said his belief in his team never wavered. He knew his team could score. The athletes just needed to capitalize on the scoring chances that they created.
Buffalo bent but did not break, allowing the Owls to penetrate the Bulls' defense and attack the goal.
The adjustment led to multiple scoring chances for Buffalo, including the game winner. But the Bulls still need to improve on converting scoring chances. There were multiple times when Buffalo's counter attack led to 1-on-1 and 2-on-1 situations at the net, but the Bulls only scored once. Buffalo took nine shots on the day, and six of them were on goal.
Senior goalkeeper Jonathan Viscosi had been challenged by Hesch to play better in recent weeks. He responded.
In the ninth minute, the Bulls' defense faltered and Florida Atlantic created a scoring chance. Owls midfielder Daniel Montoya maneuvered around the Bulls' defense and wound up right in front of the net, but his shot was be sent flying by the Bulls' keeper. The rebound bounced in front of the Owls' Vincent DiBullo and Viscosi rejected his shot, too.
The double save was the highlight of a strong day in goal for Viscosi, who stopped seven shots on the day. It was Viscosi's fifth shutout in the past two seasons. Although he played well, he was more excited about the victory than anything else.
"This game we had to win, absolutely had to win to save the season," Viscosi said. "We went over our game plan all week and the best thing is that we stuck to it and we got a goal. Even though it was only one goal, we still got the win and that's what counts."
The Bulls need to win their final three games if they hope to qualify for the conference tournament.
For a team with only three wins to date, stringing together multiple victories may seem like a difficult proposition. Buffalo, however, may have a legitimate opportunity to do so. When the Bulls have scored at least one goal, they are 3-2-1 this season.
Buffalo's next opportunity will be against conference powerhouse Western Michigan (9-4-2, 1-1-1 MAC). The game will be at UB Stadium Friday at 7 p.m.
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