Men’s soccer loses season closer 2-1, awaits conference fate

Dillan Schorfheide, Sports Editor

A 2-1 road loss to Green Bay Tuesday signifies the end of the men’s soccer team’s regular season, and the result is a bag of, well, mixed results.

The Panthers lost in overtime Tuesday, dropping to 5-9-2 overall for the regular season (the Green Bay match was a non-conference game).

For 86 minutes of play, it looked as though the match would go to overtime scoreless until Green Bay’s Fredi Ortega, in the 87th minute, headed a cross home to give the Phoenix a late 1-0 lead.

Eastern responded less than a minute and a half later, as Maxwell Allen corralled a rebound and put it away to tie the match.

But, as quickly as Eastern tied the match, Green Bay took that joy away by scoring just over a minute into overtime to send Eastern back to a waiting room full of angst in Charleston.

The reason Charleston is a metaphorical, dreaded waiting room is because Eastern is barely holding on to the last spot for the Summit League postseason tournament.

Only four of the six conference teams make it, and Eastern is in fourth place.

But, longtime-powerhouse Denver plays Fort Wayne, the worst team in the conference, Saturday.

If Denver wins, the Pioneers take what Eastern thought was its spot in the tournament.

If Denver ties or loses, Eastern gets to play longer this season.

That tense situation is just one example of the mixed results the men’s soccer team faces at the regular season’s end.

The positives that came out of this season are an improved record and more goals scored.

Eastern scored 14 goals this season, a total that is more than the 2017 total (10) and the 2018 total (12).

Leading the Panthers in scoring this season was Shady Omar with three goals, followed by Allen and Davi Girardi with two goals each, and seven other goal-scorers who each had one goal.

The Panthers’ win total (5) is also the most since 2016, so the Panthers made improvements this season overall.

At the same time, though, there were some signs of old tendencies to pop up throughout the season.

The Eastern offensive attack, at times, was hesitant to push up and was very selective with how it attacked. Overall, very few trips in to opponents’ penalty boxes led to scoring chances.

Otherwise, Eastern head coach Kiki Lara found two great defenders for the future in freshmen Delphy Sabu and Quinn Rechner.

Allen, also a freshmen, may have earned himself serious consideration for playing time next year by tying as the second-leading scorer on the team this year, ahead of veterans on Lara’s squad.

Jonathan Burke was a rock in net again this year and showed that he is not going to get scored on easily.

But, and especially if the Panthers do not make the conference tournament, it feels as though something is missing.

Eastern posted another losing record overall and in conference (1-2-2), and the offense, while somewhat improved, still seems like it has a lot of room it can grow.

And now, with Denver holding Eastern’s fate in its palms, the goal the Panthers always talk about (winning the conference) seems to be very unlikely to happen.

Western Illinois went from not making the conference tournament last season to being the No. 2 team in the conference this season, and Oral Roberts also went from missing the cut last year to being the top team in the conference, in the regular season, this year.

Eastern’s future in this calendar year is murky, and even though there are good accomplishments to look back on for this season, the negatives also accompanying them paint a portrait of possibly another case of the “there’s always next year.”

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