Photo: Michael Sage
The Drake men’s soccer squad (3-7-3, 1-0-1 MVC) will close out its non-conference schedule on Saturday when it takes on UIC (Illinois at Chicago) at 7 p.m. at Cownie Soccer Complex.
The Bulldogs will host the Flames in the third annual Ralph Gross Alumni Classic, which will also mark the fourth annual “Greenest Game on Grass” contest. Drake will wear its green uniforms that will be auctioned off during the game. The first 200 fans in attendance will receive a “Drake Soccer Goes Green” T-shirt.
After a rough 1-7-2 start to the season (which included seven games on the road), the Bulldogs have bounced back with a successful three-game homestand that included a tie with Missouri Valley Conference rival Creighton and a pair of wins over Western Illinois and MVC foe Central Arkansas.
UIC (4-5-2) comes into the game having had its five-game unbeaten streak snapped last Saturday in a 2-1 overtime loss at Milwaukee. The Flames have squared-off against the Bulldogs on four occasions, with Drake maintaining a 2-1 advantage all-time. However, UIC toppled Drake in their last meeting. The Flames squeaked past the Bulldogs 3-2 in a double-overtime win last season.
The Bulldogs have yielded just one goal in their last three matches (a total of 290 minutes), a startling contrast to the 2.2 goals allowed per game that Drake permitted in the first ten games of the season.
Despite being outshot 43-28 in two conference games this season, Drake has still not received a goal in conference play.
“I’d say (redshirt junior) Rich Gallagher, this is the second shutout in a row, he has been absolutely terrific,” said head coach Sean Holmes in a Drake athletic press release following last Saturday’s win over Central Arkansas. “Really faultless all season-long despite the goals that we gave up.”
Holmes was also pleased with the performances from fifth-year senior Michael Thaden and sophomore Kyle Whigham in the midfield. The Bulldogs will need to control the middle of the pitch and rely on Gallagher for a successful outing.
Drake will hope its recent defensive play translates into non-conference success. The Bulldogs are 1-0-1 in the MVC this season, but only 2-7-2 in non-conference play. Although it must be said that Drake squared-off against quality non-conference competition with most of its games being played on the road.
Following its game against the Flames, Drake will hit the road for its first road conference match against Bradley on Oct. 17. After that, the Bulldogs will travel to Evansville, Ill., to take on the Purple Aces on Oct. 20.
On Tuesday the Bulldogs took on University of Missouri-Kansas City. Results on that match can be found in the next edition of The Times-Delphic.