Men’s soccer team splits matches at Bradley Invitational

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Dillan Schorfheide

Eastern junior Matheus Santos strikes a ball in a match against Green Bay at Lakeside Field on Sept. 2. Green Bay won the game 1-0.

Dillan Schorfheide , Assistant Sports Editor

Shady Omar saved Eastern from leaving Peoria winless Sunday with a late, game-winning free kick to give the Panthers a 2-1 victory over Mercer.

Omar’s goal is the first on the season for him, and it is the first of his Eastern career.

“It feels amazing to score a winning goal like that especially that late in the game,” Omar said. “Proud of the team because we deserved to win the game, we worked hard and we deserve nothing less than a win.”

Eastern (2-2-1) lost to Bradley (4-0-1) 1-0 on Friday in the first of the Panthers’ two matches at the Bradley Invitational this weekend, struggling to get a lot of scoring chances against the Braves.

But on the way to handing Mercer (4-1-1) its first loss of the season, Eastern fired off a flurry of shots and created plenty of chances to score.

Mercer drew blood first in the match, scoring in the 13th minute off a penalty kick. The goal marks the third penalty kick goal Eastern has given up in its first five matches of the season.

Kris Luke tied the match for Eastern in the 36th minute off an assist from Luke Kurili, and the goal was Luke’s first of the season and the second of his Eastern career. Luke got the pass from Kurili at the edge of the 18-yard box and hit a curling shot to the top corner of the goal.

Then in the face of a tie to finish the invitational, Omar’s free-kick goal from 22 yards out in the 84th minute gave Eastern its second win on the year, while also breaking a two-match losing streak.

“This win will definitely be a positive turning point for us,” Omar said.

While Eastern had the same amount of shots as mercer Sunday (14), and had one less shot on goal (5-4), the difference from Friday’s match to Sunday is proven by the goals eastern scored. 

Creating and taking scoring chances is something head coach Kiki Lara wanted to see from his team this weekend, and the numbers from Sunday show they did both.

Eastern and Mercer both had seven corner kicks each, too.

“Honestly we just told ourselves that we need to play higher up the field to create more chances and (Sunday) we were very hungry to get goals, and that’s why we created this many chances,” Omar said.

But Eastern did not have as much luck finding the back of the net, much less any scoring chances, against Bradley Friday.

Eastern got off six total shots, led by Cameron Behm, who had two shots. On Friday, Eastern also had fewer shots on goal compared to Bradley (5-4).

Luke had the first great chance for Eastern to score against Bradley, firing a line-drive shot from about 24 yards out late in the first half, which required Bradley goalkeeper Albert Reinwart to make a diving stop. 

Christian Sosnowski and Behm also had shots on goal in the match, but both shots, and Luke’s, were from the 18-yard box and beyond. Bradley did not give the Panthers a lot of breathing room for scoring in the box.

Eastern’s next match is at home Wednesday at 3 p.m. against IUPUI.

Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]