Men’s soccer fails to capitalize on chances against UAB



By Boyd C. M. Hayes | Assistant sports editor

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UK men’s soccer was defeated 2-1 by the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Sunday in the first game of the Conference USA portion of the schedule.

The UK loss extended the Cats’ losing streak to four games.

After falling behind 1-0 early in the first half, UK was unable to equalize despite numerous opportunities. The Cats’ only goal came with less than a minute left in the game.

“(It was) a disappointing opening game of conference play,” said UK head coach Johan Cedergren. “Giving up an early goal never helps.”

The Blazers’ early goal came from junior midfielder Alex Clay in the second minute, assisted by sophomore forward Freddy Ruiz.

With opportunities created by sophomore midfielder Kristoffer Tollefsen, senior midfielder Brad Doliner and sophomore forward Jacob Scearce up the left side of the pitch, the Cats took nine first-half shots, but were unable to score.

UAB sophomore defender Ian Svantesson headed in a second Blazers goal to extend their lead before the end of the first half.

Svantesson’s goal opportunity came from a corner kick after Irving collided with a crowd of players from both teams, leaving the goal vulnerable. The assist was credited to senior midfielder Patrick Huang.

“I told (the team) before the game, ‘UAB is going to be dangerous in set pieces, and you’re going to have to take individual responsibility for that,’ and they did not,” Cedergren said. “It was tough to lose that second goal.”

After entering the locker room at halftime trailing 2-0, the Cats came out in attack in the second half, spending much of the first five minutes in the UAB penalty box.

“I challenged (the team) at halftime, come back out, let’s win the second half, and let’s start building from that,” Cedergren said.

UK maintained offensive pressure for the majority of the half, finishing the game with 19 total shots, compared to UAB’s five.

Despite the opportunities, the Cats were kept out of goal by UAB senior goalkeeper Raphael Ville until the final minute of play.

“You have to give (UAB) a lot of credit. They do a good job defensively. They’re fairly big and physical. But at the same time, on the flipside of that, I think we’re a little soft,” Cedergren said. “We have a lot of good play in midfield, a lot of good buildup play, but when it really comes down to it, when that cross comes or that ball drops for a second ball, are you really willing to go in where it hurts to help your team out?”

As the clock neared the closing seconds, Cats senior forward Tyler Riggs was kicked in the face in the box and the referee signaled a penalty kick.

Doliner stepped into the box to take the penalty and netted it just to the right of center, as Ville dove left.

“All the stats that you look at, you say, ‘How can this team lose?’ But we find a way to lose every time right now,” Cedergen said. “We’re a good team. We just got to have more of an edge in our defensive box, and when we get 14 corners and 19 shots at goal, at some point that has to equal a goal.”

The loss is UK’s fourth in a row, after falling to Xavier University, Dartmouth College and the University of South Florida by a combined score of 7-2.

“You see improvement since day one of preseason, but we’re not there yet,” Cedergren said. “It’s just a matter of, can we get it together in time enough to get the conference tournament and then be able to combine all of the good stuff that we do on the ball with a little more sound defense and a little grit in the box?”

The Cats will have an opportunity to halt their losing skid at Old Dominion University, one of the schools added to C-USA this season, on Friday, Oct. 4, at 7:30 p.m.