FOREST CITY -- Despite outshooting its opponent 26-13, the Waldorf University men's soccer team still ended up losing its second consecutive match in a 4-2 defeat to the Concordia University (Neb.) Bulldogs on Wednesday.
"It was a disappointing result," head coach Gonzaga stated after the loss. "We came out firing early in the first half, but everything that could wrong in the game went wrong for us."
Murphy's law, as Gonzaga pointed out, was in full effect for the Warriors early on in the first half. After Jose Beltran gave his team a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute of action, Waldorf had the ball deep in its own zone in the 11th minute. The Warriors tried to clear the ball down the middle of a pitch, but a deflected clearing attempt eventually ricocheted into the feet of forward Marcelo Hernandez. Hernandez would get the ball with nobody in front of him but Warriors starting goalkeeper Corey Stephens, and the senior from Quito, Ecuador would not miss on his breakaway chance.
Lewis Rathbone, who would finish the afternoon with his first career hat trick, scored after Stephens couldn't catch the shot taken from Bulldogs forward Carlos Ferrer. Ferrer's shot went off the fingertips of Stephens and towards the direction of Rathbone's right foot. Rathbone would deliver on the rebound shot attempt to give Concordia a 2-1 lead in the 17th minute.
The Warriors (4-4) outshot the Bulldogs (5-0-1) by exactly double the number of shots, but the Bulldogs would prove to the Waldorf home fans who attended the afternoon match at Bolstorff Field why Concordia entered Forest City with an undefeated record.
Nobody would score for another 15 minutes in the first half until both teams entered the 32nd minute. Stephens had no chance to stop this shot attempt from going past the end line. Concordia defender Angel Alvarez led Rathbone with a beautiful pass in the penalty area, and Rathbone finished the play with a one-timer shot into the net. Concordia would then lead 3-1, a score that would stay the same entering the second half.
"We got too confident after we scored. W switched off of our gear, and you cannot do that against a good team like Concordia," Gonzaga said after the match. "They punished us. We went down 3-1 in the first half, which is the first time that has happened since 2015. We haven't even conceded four goals in a game since that season."
The "punishing" that Gonzaga alliterated to is in regards to Concordia taking advantage of its time on the attack. The Bulldogs might have only finished with 13 shots, but nine of those went on net for a .692 shot on goal percentage. Waldorf had a plethora of shots in its home match, but only 10 of them were shots on goal against Concordia starting goalkeeper Jack Bennett (.385 shot on goal percentage).
The man of the match who might have been snake-bitten the most was probably Waldorf midfielder Osman Toro. The freshman from Kissimmee, Fla. led Waldorf with six total shots; however, only one of those shots was registered as towards the goalie.
Déjà vu continued in the second half for Waldorf, as the Warriors kept trying to get back in the game with shot attempt after shot attempt after shot attempt. Concordia's defense deserves credit though, as the undefeated Bulldogs blocked four shot attempts in front of Bennett.
The turning point in the match quite possibly happened with 41:39 remaining in the second half. Stephens was called for a foul in the goalie area, which gave Concordia a golden opportunity to make it a 4-1 lead on a penalty kick. Rathbone would not be denied his third goal of the match, and just like that, the Warriors found themselves down by three goals early on in the second frame.
However, Waldorf would show a lot of grit and determination in the second half. Instead of just quitting and possibly allowing Concordia to score more goals in the match, Waldorf kept its composure and tightened its overall defense.
"We pinned them in their half, even when we were done a man due to the red card. We showed fight and played real Waldorf soccer, which is get the ball on the ground and move it," said Gonzaga. "However, again, we were late to begin that. It has to be better; we need to be better….our guys need to be better."
The "red card" that Gonzaga alluded to happened in the 63rd minute of the match. Waldorf's Jose Beltran got ejected from the field, which made Waldorf play down a man (11-on-10) for the game's final 27 minutes. Waldorf's first-year head coach didn't agree with the call. After the game, Gonzaga was quoted as saying, "It was too soft of a referee to make in a college soccer game."
With Waldorf trailing 4-1 and having to play down a man, it seemed like the Warriors had no shot to come back. However, the word "quit" or "take it down a notch" were not in Waldorf's vocabulary for this Wednesday afternoon soccer game.
As the match neared the 74th minute mark, Jean Bonnin found the back of the net, thanks to a nifty pass from teammate Rodrigo Freitas. Bonnin now leads Waldorf in goals scored (5) for the 2017 regular season.
After Bonnin scored, things continued to get interesting for the never-stop-fighting Warriors. The 82nd minute might have been Waldorf's last chance to get back into the game. Anthony Henvey's show would get blocked, with the ball inevitably landing towards Jose Rincon's feet. Rincon had a good look near the penalty area, but his shot attempt went just above the crossbar.
It was a complete and utter snake-bitten loss for the Warriors, who had numerous golden opportunities to get a big-time home win. Jean Bonnin could have easily tied the game at 2-2 in the 24th minute, but his shot attempt went off the post.
It was that kind of afternoon for the Warriors: close but no cigar.
Stephens (4-4) might have given up four goals on the day, but three of those probably weren't his fault. He didn't have much of a chance on the 1-on-0 breakaway, nor did he have much of a prayer on Rathbone's one-timer to make it 3-1. Stephens stopped a penalty kick from going into the net against Morningside College last Saturday, but he just ran into a hot goal scorer in Rathbone. Rathbone scored three times on just four shot attempts.
Stephens finished the day with five saves on nine shots for a .555 save percentage. There's a big reason to why the Bulldogs have an unblemished record, and his name is Jack Bennett. Bennett improved his goalkeeping record to 5-0-1 by saving eight of shots in his direction, which was good enough for a .800 save percentage.
Waldorf ran into a great team that was the Concordia Bulldogs. This is a historic year for Bulldogs men's soccer, as they haven't gone undefeated this late into the regular season since 1974. However, Gonzaga was not pleased with the amount of mistakes that his team made in the two-goal loss.
"We are making too many errors that we shouldn't be," said Gonzaga. "We will watch film and get back to work immediately."
Waldorf will head back to the pitch on Saturday afternoon against the Briar Cliff University Chargers (5-1). The match begins at 5 PM, and Gonzaga would like his young men to end their current losing streak in front of the home crowd.
"We hope to bounce back on Saturday," said Gonzaga.