UK mens soccer starts 2022 campaign with 2-0 win against UIC


Michael Clubb

Kentucky Wildcats forward Eythor Bjorgolfsson (9) gets back into position during the University of Kentucky vs. Notre Dame men’s soccer game on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, at the Bell Soccer Complex in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 1-0. Photo by Michael Clubb | Kentucky Kernel

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

Kentucky mens soccer (1-0) started its 2022 campaign with a win at home over UIC (0-1) on Thursday.

Coming off of the best season in program history, the Wildcats were determined to start the season the right way with a mostly familiar roster.

“I was very pleasantly surprised that we had some of the players come back that did,” fifth year captain Robert Screen said. “Obviously we lost Jan [Hoffelner], who was a great goalkeeper, but I think the keepers we have this year are equally as good. I’m really excited – last year was really good, and I think we can improve on that this year.”

The first half saw little in the way of scoring efforts, with both UK and the Flames attempting four shots each, though UIC goalkeeper Isaac Carvajal was forced to make three saves while Isaac Walker had none – a testament to the backline of the Cats.

“We were statistically the best back four in the nation last year,” Screen said. “I think we have confidence in all of our goalkeepers, which definitely helps, but I think we don’t allow that many shots on the keeper either, which I think is credit to not only the back four but the work that the center midfielders and forwards put in. [It’s] just the experience in defense and in front of the goal.”

Entering the half nil-nil, the Wildcats were determined to shake off the rust that was apparent in a few of their scoring efforts and capitalize on their opportunities.

They would do just that in the 47’ as senior forward Eythor Bjorgolfsson found the back of the net with a header courtesy of a clean cross into the box courtesy of senior midfielder Nick Gutmann.

The Cats seemed content to park the bus following the goal for much of the second half, slowing the game down and making low risk passes more frequently than before.

Kentucky would have more scoring attempts, though many of these were unsuccessful as a result of minor mistakes that head coach Johan Cedergren will surely hope to clean up as the season goes on.

With full time looming large, UK would find its dagger on a fastbreak opportunity by returning fifth-year forward Danny Evans in the 88’.

Evans crossed the ball into the center towards both Gutmann and sophomore midfielder Martin Soereide, with the latter avoiding contact with the ball to avoid an off-sides whistle, leaving his German teammate with just Carvajal to beat.

Gutmann would win the duel, lightly sending the ball to the right and into the net for the insurance goal.

Playing out the final two minutes with no issues, Kentucky reigned victorious over UIC in what doubled as their season and home opener.

Coach Cedergren was happy with the performance, though he did acknowledge the amount of opportunities the Wildcats failed to convert while also paying respect to the opponents.

“I’m happy with the win, I’m happy with the clean sheet,” he said. “I thought we played really well. It’s early on, you could tell that we need to be a little sharper in the final third, but I thought we did really good. I’ll take 2-0 any day of the week, but I still think we left a couple of chances on the board, but I was really impressed with UIC. It is a really really good team and they’re going to surprise some teams this fall.”

By the end of the night Kentucky outshot UIC just 12-8, though the winning figure was much more apparent with shots on target, with the Cats having six on target shots with just one allowed against them.

Being forced to make just the one save, the former Western Michigan transfer Walker was able to keep a clean sheet in his inaugural game with Kentucky, hoping to recreate the defensive dominance of veteran Jan Hoffelner before him.

With game one under its belt as a victory, Cedergren’s squad turns its sights towards Seattle University on Monday as they hope to remain undefeated against a tough Redhawk squad fresh off a 3-1 road win over No. 4 Notre Dame.

UK and Seattle are currently slated to kick-off at 7:30 p.m. EST inside the Wendell and Vickie Bell Soccer Complex and will air live on ESPN+.