MILWAUKEE – The Panthers had no answer for Green Bay forward and Milwaukee native Cheenuj Shong, as he scored a goal in each half to lead the Phoenix to an efficient 2-0 victory at Englemann Stadium on Wednesday night. Milwaukee has now lost three consecutive Horizon League games.
In the first half and the first 20 minutes in particular, the home squad was aggressive. The Panthers took the first four shots of the game, but none of them made the goal. This would be the story of the game, as Milwaukee was the attacking team most of the night. However, Green Bay made their shots count. Panthers’ head coach Kris Kelderman spoke on the team’s opening assertiveness.
“For the first 20 minutes, I was really pleased with our energy and how we were playing,” he said. “Then we went through about a five-minute stretch where things changed a bit and they got their goal. Cheenuj finished well, he took care of the opportunity that he got, but it was a failed clearance on our part. Then we lost our rhythm and Green Bay was very good after that.”
The two goals by Shong were the Phoenix’s only two shots on goal during the game. Goalkeeper Agustin Rey finished with two saves.
Shong’s first goal came unassisted in the 24th minute. This was the only shot on goal for both teams in the first half, despite the two teams combining for 11 total shots (UWM 6, UWGB 5).
The one-goal deficit quickly doubled in the second half. Shong took a double assist from midfielders Audi Jepson and Vincent Nguyen to score in the 47th minute. Kelderman noticed the level of desperation his team played with after that, but commended the perseverance.
“The second goal being scored on us affected our attitude and our aggression,” he said. “Then the hole was a little deeper and we had to really start pushing and going for it. I thought the guys showed good energy, I thought their response was good, but at the end of the day the quality just wasn’t good enough.”
Once again, the Panthers were aggressive in the second half, perhaps even more so than in the first. The reason for this, however, was that Green Bay was much more focused on protecting its lead. Still, Milwaukee out-shot the Phoenix, 11-3, in the second half.
Shong may have been the offensive catalyst, but it was the brilliant net-minding play by Phoenix goalkeeper Kyle Ihn that made the difference on defense. Ihn saved a shot from midfielder Francesco Saporito that would have cut the lead in half in the 60th minute, this being one of four saves for Ihn.
In addition, Milwaukee was not very efficient in its shooting, as Saporito missed a shot off the post two minutes after the one that Ihn saved, and forward Nick Moon headed a shot that would have scored had it not gone inches over the cross bar. Kelderman essentially said that the missed shot was the final chance to gain momentum.
“If Nick can finish that, all of a sudden it’s 2-1 and things can change and we have time to change it,” he said. “We just weren’t good enough when we need to be.”
13 of the Panthers’ 17 shots did not make it to the goal. A late one, however, did, but Ihn was up to the task. Moon fired one from the wing, but the Phoenix goalie stopped it to preserve the two-goal win in the 87th minute.
This game proved that soccer games simply are not won on paper. UWM dominated the stat sheet with a 17-8 shots advantage, including 4-2 shots on goal. In addition, Green Bay committed 20 fouls to the Panthers’ 11. Both teams had two corner kicks.
The home squad fell to 24-16-5 all time against the Phoenix, the two teams first squaring off in 1975. Milwaukee has a chance to right the ship on Saturday, remaining at Englemann to take on Wright State. The game will be the second half of a women’s/men’s doubleheader.