The energy and tension from the women’s game that started the Sunday doubleheader against Illinois Central College at Tim Rooney Stadium carried over into the men’s game. Ryan Hodge’s men’s side, like Tim Rooney’s women, are used to comfortable matches, comfortable wins, and any time they get put to the fire by imposing opposition makes for great entertainment. The Lewis and Clark name is synonymous with quality soccer, and the current iteration of both the men’s and women’s team live up to that billing and more.
Notwithstanding my talking them up, the Trailblazer men seemingly met their match in the first half against ICC. No early goals here, as neither side really managed to trouble the opposing goalkeeper. The first really clear-cut chance of the match actually fell to the visiting Cougars, who missed an open goal around the 20-minute mark. Trailblazer leading scorer Reshaun Welkes hit the post in what was ultimately L&C’s best chance of the half, as most of the first 45 was spent in the middle of the pitch.
This game was a physical affair. Welkes has a tendency to draw a lot of fouls with his quick feet, but he wasn’t alone in this match, as players from both sides were feeling the brunt of rough but fair tackles. Despite what some soccer parents in attendance may feel, no one was tackling particularly dirty or unnecessarily, just rough tackles that occasionally weren’t timed as well as planned. Both teams, at times, had choice words for the match referee.
ICC’s best chance of the entire first half came in the final few moments, as a Cougar attacker found himself in on goal and even beat L&C goalkeeper Christian Deans. It was the heroics of Matthew Vieira that preserved the goalless half, as the Trailblazer midfielder slid and blocked a Cougar shot on goal that would have surely given the visitors a lead at halftime.
The Trailblazers looked like the better side coming out in the second half. Their pressure on the ICC defense was starting to create chances for frequent goalscorers Reshaun Welkes and Tony Bodul. None of the opportunities were truly simple or easy, making it hard to blame the attackers for the lack of goals. More so, it’s a credit of the defense of both sides, that chances were so few and far between at Tim Rooney Stadium on Sunday.
Still goalless with minutes remaining, Reshaun Welkes was yellow carded, meaning he had to be subbed out of the match. Welkes didn’t come back in regulation, whether that be a strategic coaching decision or a more disciplinary one. ICC’s golden chance came in the final two minutes of the second half, a cross finding a free Juan Rosique in the box, who flicked his header just wide. Rosique couldn’t believe himself, burying his face in his hands as he made his way back on defense.
With no goals scored over the 90 minutes, extra time was required. As I found out just a few weeks ago when SWIC forced extra time against the L&C women, extra time in college soccer uses a golden goal system, meaning that first goal wins. Two 10-minute periods are allowed to find a golden goal, and unless in playoffs, the game will end in a draw if no goals are found in the 20 minutes of extra time.
Reshaun Welkes made his way back onto the field for extra time, his offensive prowess truly needed if L&C were to make a breakthrough. Unfortunately, extra time felt much like the 90 minutes that preceded it, an intense yet cagey affair, where teams found it difficult to find anything at all on offense. Twenty minutes passed, no goals were found. Illinois Central managed to come to Tim Rooney Stadium and hand Lewis and Clark their first draw of the season.
Ryan Hodge’s team finishes their regular season this week on the road, travelling to visit the Archers of St. Louis Community College on October 16 and closing out the campaign on October 20, against the Millikin University reserve squad in non-conference play. Eyes will be looking towards the postseason however, and if the Trailblazers can secure a Region 24 title, they will host the Central District Championships at Tim Rooney Stadium in November, with the winner heading to the National Championships.
For more information on men’s soccer and all Trailblazer sports, visit LC.edu/athletics.