Bradley FC (2-4-1) came in short during the opening game of the Missouri Valley Conference against Belmont (3-1-2), losing 2-1 in a nail-biting case.
Bradley’s sophomore captain Red Rogers saw the result as a promising first step against the second-best team in the conference, according to MVC Pre-Season Polls.
“We’ve had a tough time on the road this season,” Rogers said. “We just wanted to stay in the game as much as possible.”
This isn’t the Bruins’ first time at MVC, as Bradley lost 4-1 in Nashville on October 8 as an affiliate during the 2000 season.
Despite some good forward moves from Bradley in the first few minutes of the match, a free kick header allowed Belmont to deliver the first kick in the first 10 minutes of the first half.
To make matters worse, young Braves striker Jack Douglas was forced out with a first-half injury after a Belmont shot was cleared.
“He is being evaluated now and we won’t know if he will be available until game time against the UIC,” said coach Jim DeRoes. “He was causing a lot of trouble for Belmont with his size and work ethic, so he was a tough guy to put on the bench.”
After more fierce battles on the wings and in the air, the score remained 1-0 in the second half.
While the Braves were looking for their first goal, Belmont scored his second early on when the Bruins attack sent a cross into the goalkeeper’s box. While the ball was in the air, it deflected off Bradley’s defender and got in the way of Belmont senior Liam O’Brien, burying Braves in a two-goal deficit.
However, after controlling the ball for a few minutes, the Braves had a spark of energy in the 79th minute when sophomore Patrick Fishburne stepped in to land a free kick and convert it 10 minutes from time.
“[Fishburne] “He used to take a few free kicks before training and likes to think he’s taking the free kicks,” Rogers said. “I think he was ready for the game because his parents flew all the way from California, so he was ready to play.”
The tempo of the match immediately changed and Bradley got another golden opportunity to level the field in the final minutes. When Michael Rogalski made a long throw into the open net, the ball hit the inside of the goalkeeper’s right post and left the danger zone, leaving the Braves with another loss close to Shea Stadium.
The Braves head to Chicago to face UIC Flames on Saturday at Flames Field. Bradley is looking forward to this game as the UIC lost their last match against Drake and the game is a chance to break their streak of misfortune down the road.