The Drake men’s soccer team had plenty of reasons not to pull off a win on this year’s homecoming: unavoidable fatigue topped that list. Prior to Saturday night, the Bulldogs had played three games in the past nine days. Throw in a surprisingly hot September evening and a halftime deficit, and it makes up a recipe for disappointment. However, disappointment wasn’t in the cards for the Bulldogs on Saturday.
Both Drake and UMKC had difficulty finding their vigor in the first half. Play was on the lackadaisical side until the 29th minute when UMKC put one away, taking advantage of a Drake defensive clearing mishap. The first half ended with UMKC up one to nil, the Bulldogs needing to push harder to overcome the unlikely odds.
UMKC might’ve outshot Drake 12 shots to 11, but shots that hit the back of the net are the only ones that matter. Eleven minutes into the second half, standout freshman Leroy Enzugusi tied up the game by scoring his third goal of the season after going toe-to-toe with UMKC keeper Filippo Errico.
“(That goal) was for my family,” Iowa native Enzugusi said. “Ever since I was little, I’ve always played for my family.”
Enzugusi’s unbelievable relentlessness had a huge hand in prompting the entire Bulldog squad to not give in to the fatigue or give up on their chances of victory.
“When you get the ball, you forget that you’re tired,” Enzugusi explained.
Drake wasn’t about to settle for a tie. In the 68th minute, junior Ryan Merideth threaded a thoughtful ball through UMKC’s defense to freshman Stafford Dowling, who quite literally slid the ball past Errico both for his first career goal at Drake and the game-winning goal — on homecoming nonetheless.
“There’s not really a feeling to describe it,” Stafford said, all smiles.
Coach Gareth Smith also reveled in the sweet victory.
“It’s huge,” he remarked. “You can see the energy levels. It’s a point of pride for us to (finally) win a game at home.”
The Bulldogs went two-for-two on the week, picking up a road win against Western Illinois on Wednesday, Sept. 20. They add both Wednesday’s and Saturday’s wins to their previous victory in Green Bay for a grand total of three wins on the season. The Bulldogs seem to be hitting their rhythm, winning the last three out of four games.
Drake is cleat-deep in conference play this week, traveling to Arkansas to battle the Central Arkansas Bears on Tuesday and to Illinois to face the Bradley Braves on Saturday.
The Bulldogs are back at home on Oct. 7 for a Missouri Valley Conference matchup against Loyola at Cownie Soccer Complex here in Des Moines. Can’t make it to the game? Tune in to the broadcast on ESPN3.