CHICAGO -- In the home opener for the University of Chicago men's soccer team, the Maroons stood up to the challenge of a competitive No. 21-ranked North Park University squad to come away with a 3-1 victory Saturday afternoon - UChicago's first of the young 2019 season.
The Vikings (1-1 record) dictated the pace from the start of the whistle, applying pressure to the Maroons on both sides of the field. Playing calm and precise led to a Vikings goal in the sixth minute. Gianfranco DeCarne took on a Maroon defender and set up a cross to an open Niclas Holgersson, who sent it in the back of the net.
With the Maroons desperate to tie the game, North Park took advantage by intercepting each play made by them, switching the field, and resetting by allowing the defense to push the ball forward. The Vikings didn't allow for successful shots to be taken from the Maroons (1-0-2 record) until the 23rd minute, when UChicago responded with the equalizer. A free kick taken by junior midfielder Ben Brandt found the open man in first-year defender Richard Gillespie, who set up a directional header in front for junior midfielder Bryce Millington to score.
North Park came close to taking the lead once again with 10 minutes left, when DeCarne's shot hit the right post. The first half concluded with sophomore midfielder Vicente Mateus crossing the ball to Gillespie, whose rocket header was narrowly saved by the Vikings' keeper leaping to his left.
UChicago had the momentum going into the second half, making the necessary adjustments to keep the Vikings' offense at bay and not allowing them to complete their plays.
In the 51st minute, first-year forward Kameron Bloye was able to apply pressure onto the NPU keeper to make him lose ball possession, scoring on an open net and thus securing the 2-1 lead for the Maroons. The Vikings' response was a shot that went wide, followed by another that went right into the hands of junior goalkeeper Aaron Katsimpalis.
With the Maroons in control, they spent the rest of the game testing the opposing keeper. In one play, first-year forward Michael Johnson beat the Vikings defenders with his pace and his shot was saved. Junior defender Isaiah Holquist later set up Johnson for another shot that was once again blocked by the keeper.
Katsimpalis had one save in the game, in part due to Maroon defenders clearing balls out and fighting for every possession. It was a physical match that drew a total of 27 fouls from both teams.
The dagger was delivered in 68th minute, when Mateus set Johnson up for a crucial run who passed back to Mateus, who promptly beat several defenders in close and sunk it in the back of the net for the third and final goal. In the final minutes, UChicago had the opportunity to extend its lead, when Brandt's free kick found Gillespie open for the sharp header that the Vikings' goalie was able to deflect away.
The Maroons outshot the Vikings by a 13-6 margin, and led corner kicks 6-2.
- Tuesday, Sept. 10: UChicago at Hope College, 6 p.m. CT