Photo by Katie Kurka
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
Today, a golden goal ended Drake Men’s Soccer’s (6-12-1, 2-5-1 MVC) season in the first 20 seconds of extra time against the University of Evansville Purple Aces (10-7-3, 4-2-2 MVC).
Drake senior defender Andre Heine made a hard tackle in the attacking third and was dealt a yellow card 14 seconds into the third period of a 1-1 quarterfinal match in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
Evansville’s sophomore forward Zac Blaydes took the free kick from about 35 yards out. MacLeod appeared to have expected someone to get a head on the free kick and redirect it. When the ball went untouched, MacLeod was caught out of position and it bounced over his head and into the back of the net.
The match and Drake’s season were over.
A 2-0 win over Bradley University the day before advanced the sixth-ranked Bulldogs into the second round of the MVC Tournament, a match that they still had a chance to win despite playing matches on back-to-back days.
Drake actually got out ahead first against Evansville.
Entering the match, Antonio Sanchez had taken 11 shots throughout his freshman season in Drake blue and white, but none of them found the net.
In the fifth minute, Sanchez dispossessed an Evansville defender and dribbled to the top of the box and took a shot from about 25 yards out.
This time, he didn’t miss. The ball curled around freshman goalkeeper Frederik Reimer and the Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead.
The run that led to the goal was reminiscent of the end of yesterday’s match when a Sanchez tackle led to a penalty kick goal by redshirt-senior Mueng Sunday to seal Drake’s first-round win.
Sanchez’s goal was also the second in as many games where a Bulldog’s first career goal gave Drake the lead, as senior James Pendrigh scored a free kick in the 27th minute against Bradley.
The pressure now fell on containing Evansville’s offense, a team that has scored 29 goals this season, the second most in the MVC.
Evansville’s team captain and leading scorer Ian McGrath was the one who tied the match eight minutes later. He powered a ground shot from outside the box between the Bulldog defenders and just out of reach of redshirt-senior goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod.
It was McGrath’s 10th goal of the year, the second highest total in the MVC.
Evansville’s defense locked down after falling behind and held strong thereafter. In the early going, the Bulldogs had utilized space in the midfield and along the wings, but it closed up soon after. The Purple Aces began to dominate possession.
The Bulldogs were not short on chances, however.
30 minutes into the half, redshirt-junior Nick Manzoni received a lead pass inside the attacking third. A quick change of direction forced a defender to miss and Manzoni put a shot on goal from 10 yards out, but Reimer deflected it away and the ball was cleared.
The Bulldogs dominated the next four minutes, with two balls getting blocked in the box and a shot from Pendrigh that rolled out of bounds.
With just over eight minutes left in the half, Jaimes and redshirt-senior Eric Williams used a little give-and-go to provide Jaimes with a breakaway.
After one touch outside of the box, Jaimes rushed his shot in an attempt to get to the ball before the charging Reimer could steal it away. The ball flew wide of the net, and the match remained tied.
Jaimes stayed lying on the ground for about 10 seconds after the miss, disappointed at the miscue, before returning to his feet.
The Bulldogs finished the first half with six shots, three times as many as Evansville’s two, even if the score was tied.
Drake managed this without one of its central players. Senior and leading goal scorer James Wypych was on the bench with an injury after enduring a hard tackle late in the Bradley match, benched for what would’ve been his final collegiate match.
With Wypych gone, Jaimes was relied on even more as a dribbler for the Bulldogs. He played 170 minutes over two days, but still managed to keep running and logged one of Drake’s five shots on goal against Evansville.
At halftime, the Bulldogs’ head coach Gareth Smith told ESPN3 that he wasn’t worried about his team’s fatigue. He still subbed often, 15 times throughout the match, with 19 players seeing playtime.
Evansville’s offense worked to wear out the Bulldogs’ legs by moving the ball horizontally across the field, forcing the defenders to shift more than they would against a straightforward attack.
Coming out quickly in the second half, Williams nearly had a Drake goal in the first minute, but was called for a foul on Reimer as the two fought for the ball in front of an otherwise open net.
This strategy of singular Drake attackers making runs was employed throughout the match. A few players tried to make plays, while the defenders and most of the midfielders held back.
With 12 minutes left in regular time, MacLeod made a diving save on a shot that probably would’ve sailed wide anyways, not willing to take any chances in a tied tournament match.
Drake’s subsequent attack ended similarly, as sophomore forward Ryan Meridith blasted a shot from 20-plus yards out, but it was deflected out of bounds.
The Bulldogs were looking to end the match in 90 minutes by committing more players forward late, but this left them exposed on the defensive end. In the 81st and 82nd minutes, Drake got lucky as the Purple Aces missed two shots, one off of the post and another flying over the crossbar.
Williams again created a chance for the Bulldogs with an 85th minute run. He completed a pass to Sunday in the box, but Sunday passed up on an opportunity to take a shot. Sunday deferring to pass led to the Bulldogs losing possession without even taking a shot on what might’ve been their best chance of the second half.
In the 88th minute, the Purple Aces were inches away from breaking the tie once again. Evansville sophomore defender Eric McDougal took a shot from outside the box that was again deflected by the post. Senior forward Jared Robinson put the rebound on goal, but MacLeod made the save.
It was the last shot of the half, and the match was headed into extra time.
After Blaydes’ goal in extra time, nine Bulldogs’ college soccer careers were officially ended: Heine, MacLeod, Pendrigh, Sunday, Williams, Wypych, Ben LeMay, James Grunert and Adam Weatherly.
For a full recap of Drake Men’s Soccer’s season, come back to timesdelphic.com next week or pick up a print issue of the Nov. 16 Times-Delphic.