CHICAGO – University of Chicago men's soccer player Max Lopez punctuated a high-octane second half by nailing the game-winner with five minutes remaining to give his team a 2-1 win over Whitworth University on Friday.
Stagg Field was the scene for the season opener as the No. 9-ranked Maroons improved to 1-0 and the Pirates fell to 0-1. UChicago has now won 10 of its past 11 home games.
The opening 20 minutes played clearly in Whitworth's favor. The visitors consistently pushed up the field with numbers and pressured UChicago's backs regularly. The Maroons struggled to connect passes into the midfield, resulting in numerous turnovers that put the Pirates right back into attack mode. One of the biggest moments of the game came eight minutes in, when UChicago senior goalkeeper Hill Bonin faced down a one-on-one opportunity and made a huge left-handed save at the right post.
But the momentum began to shift with several close shots by Lopez in the 22nd minute. The Maroons found more connections on the wings and used their superior team speed to create rushes.
Junior forward Matthew Koh dribbled his way past defenders time and again, and one of his jaunts hit pay dirt in the 31st minute. Koh got on the break up the middle and threaded his way through three defenders on his way into the box. He then crossed the ball left to Tommy Tenuta, who slipped on the grass, recovered and struck the ball off the goalie and in. It was the first career goal for the Maroon sophomore forward.
With a 1-0 lead in hand heading into the second half, UChicago dialed up the offensive pressure. The indecision of the opening half was gone and the home side swarmed forward on the attack, resulting in an 11-1 advantage in shots for the half.
However, Whitworth's one shot counted on the scoreboard. In the 51st minute, a free kick skied into the box and Micah Weller spun his header into the back of the net to tie the score up.
The Maroons remained undeterred despite the equalizer. The forwards pressed up on Whitworth's defense at such a high rate, the Pirates began to rush passes and booted balls out of bounds. Freshman defender Scott Lich was a key component, roaming the right sideline with abandon, pilfering possession and opening up attacking lanes.
UChicago was snakebitten on a few point blank attempts that just missed. Lopez came the closest with a rising laser that pinged the crossbar at 75:09. The junior forward could not be contained by the defense and his persistence paid off in the 85th minute. Lopez made his move to the middle of the attacking third, executed a slick give-and-go with Tenuta that he got back in space, and expertly placed his shot inside the left post past a diving goalie and defender.
A red card in the immediate aftermath put Whitworth down a player and the Maroons salted the final minutes away to preserve the 2-1 victory.
Shots ended in favor of UChicago 17-7, while corner kicks were even at 4-4. Lopez fired off six shots and sophomore midfielder Gary Zhao tallied four. Bonin (1-0 record) made one save and allowed one goal between the pipes.
- Monday, Sept. 4 – Knox College at UChicago, 4 PM