They had subs and it was crazy.
For the University of Evansville men’s soccer team Wednesday night, youth and depth were in their favor.
The Aces substituted early and often, using five men off the bench. Their two goal scorers, freshman Jared Robinson and sophomore Mark Anthony Gonzalez, entered the game in the 17th and 30th minute, respectively. Even the player with the lone assist, sophomore Nate Opperman, didn’t play in regulation.
“I think a big thing for us is our depth,” said head coach Mike Jacobs. “(Saint Louis) only subbed like two or three times and we were able to bring guys in that made the game better. When you have that kind of depth — that you can bring guys on like that — (it) speaks volumes for the chemistry in this group, that guys buy into doing what ever their role is, (and) the character of this team and the will this team has.”
Wednesday night wasn’t the first time Robinson — or any of the freshmen — have come up big for UE. The freshman tallied his first career goal against Northern Illinois last Friday, heading a shot in within the first minute of the game. Landon Souder and Kyle Richardville also saw minutes in the match, with Souder starting the game at midfield and playing the entire game.
“It’s always good when freshmen are stepping up and doing fantastic things,” Gonzalez said. “It shows the character of our team, that we keep on building, and next year we’ll have an even stronger team.”
BAND OF BROTHERS: The four juniors that make up Evansville’s back line were a brick wall yet again.
Patrick Hodges, Brandon Causey, Kevin Schafer and goalkeeper Eric Teppen stifled Saint Louis’ powerful offense that featured one of the nation’s best attackers in Robert Kristo on Wednesday night. UE held the Billikens to just seven shots on goal and the defense wasn’t afraid to get physical with the larger, quicker attackers.
“Our back line — and we changed our tactics, we played with three in the back against these guys and it thought it really, really helped — Hodges, Schafer, Causey, those guys were like warriors out there,” Jacobs said. “They were dealing with tremendous strikers. Teppen just stood on his head. You don’t win a game like that if your goalkeeper doesn’t stand up, and he was tremendous tonight.”
Saint Louis is a possession-oriented offense which is characterized by long, thought-out possessions. So as the Billikens were patient with the ball, the Aces were able to play tighter defense to suppress any ‘good’ chances they were trying to create.
Many times that meant challenging the attacker and going in for a tackle — this proved risky a couple of times, as Saint Louis was able to get a few good looks on net — and UE’s defense held steady.
“I think they are comfortable playing in front of our back line, playing sideways and backwards,” Jacobs said. “For us, we felt as long as we can keep their attacking players in front of us, they weren’t going to be able to get good scoring chances.”
YOU’VE GOT ME FEELING EMOTIONS: A rivalry isn’t a rivalry without passion, and Wednesday’s game wasn’t lacking any fire.
Three yellow cards were given to Evansville players — Luis Romero, Alex Kapsalis and Charlie Macias — and Saint Louis’s William Hidalgo was booked with one late in the game, and there was plenty of tension on the field.
After a whistle, Macias got in a bit of a pushing match with a Billiken and after cooling off, went full speed on the attack, putting pressure on Saint Louis’ defense as they were passing around the field to set up a play. It was instances like these where you could tell this rivalry meant a lot to the Aces.
“The game was definitely heated, but we’re playing Saint Louis,” Gonzalez said. “Nationally ranked, but you have to play hard and get your emotions pumping.”