The Panthers played two hard-fought games at their round-robin tournament at Luger Field on the Gonzaga campus, but came up short in both of them. Once again, the lack of an offensive attack doomed Milwaukee.
The second game of the tourney Sunday afternoon against the home squad was a defensive struggle that only featured one scored goal. That score came from Gonzaga sophomore defender Ben White early in the second half (55th minute). Afterwards, the Panthers had a few chances to put in the equalizer, but could not capitalize. Head coach Kris Kelderman spoke after the loss.
“It was a very physical match and I thought the guys fought and battled very hard,” he said. “It was a tough loss at 1-0 and the goal we gave up was a tough one. But, we move on and look forward to Oakland next week and get the season started for conference play.”
Physical was certainly the right word for the matchup vs. the Bulldogs. 28 fouls were committed, 16 of them by Gonzaga. The shot count was relatively even, as the Zags outshot Milwaukee 9-8. However, that one extra shot was the decider in a 1-0 affair.
Houston Baptist, like everyone except Evansville this season, provided a stiff challenge for the Panthers’ offensive attack. The Friday afternoon tilt was like nearly all of Milwaukee’s games this season in that it was a defensive slug-fest.
The Huskies got the scoring going early when a through ball during the eighth minute got past Panthers’ goalie Agustin Rey. HBU was able to maintain that lead going into halftime thanks to the brilliant play of goalkeeper Philip Poser. However, Milwaukee did respond early in the second.
Freshman Matthias Binder, who has been a bright spot on an otherwise dismal offense this season, hit a shot into the upper-left corner of the net at the 53:33 mark off a touch pass from fellow freshman Francesco Saporito. This lead would last for just over 20 minutes, though.
Huskies’ star forward Marcelo Acuna did a star thing, putting in the go-ahead goal with 15 minutes to play. The Panthers could not respond and fell short, 2-1. Kelderman cited missed opportunities as the primary reasons for the team’s early-season struggles.
“I think we are going through a frustrating time,” he said. “As a team, we are finding ways to lose a game when you are trying to find ways to win a game. We are at a point where we are averaging 18 shots a game – we had 18 again today – and only had one goal to show for it. We had other opportunities, but we are not capitalizing on them.”
Despite the loss, Milwaukee did hold an 18-15 shots advantage, along with a 6-5 corner kick edge.
The Panthers have a chance to right the ship in conference play on Saturday at Oakland, though it will be tough. The Golden Grizzlies are the defending Horizon League champions.