Bowling Green State University men’s soccer coach Eric Nichols wanted the 2,924 fans at Cochrane Soccer Stadium to leave Thursday’s game happy. He did not get what we wanted.
The Falcons outshot Ohio State, 10-9, but fell to the Buckeyes, 1-0.
“It’s tough. What a crowd. What an environment,” Nichols said.
“I’m just sorry that we didn’t send them away with something to cheer for, and I know the guys are really hurting right now. That’s the way the game goes at times.”
Ohio State’s only goal was scored by junior midfielder Laurence Wootton on a penalty kick with 10:05 remaining in the match.
Wootton’s PK hit the top of the goalpost and bounced straight down and into the net as the Buckeyes improved to 2-0-1. BGSU falls to 0-2-1, but still leads Ohio State in the all-time series, 25-20-4.
It was not as if the Falcons did not have their chances to score.
Ohio State 6-foot-4 senior goalkeeper Keagan McLaughlin made four saves, including a diving stop on a PK, while BGSU 6-0 junior goalkeeper Brendan Graves, a Perrysburg graduate, only needed one.
“We had a PK, and we don’t make it, and they get a PK, and they make theirs,” Nichols said. “It was really the clear difference in the game. Both teams played well. We had chances, they had chances.
“We have a lot to be proud of, but it definitely hurts because we weren’t able to send this great crowd away with a goal.”
BGSU has not scored a goal yet this season. The Falcons, ranked 25th in the national preseason poll, tied DePaul, 0-0, and lost to Loyola, 1-0, during opening weekend in Chicago.
Nichols sighed when he heard the word “offense” mentioned to him after the game. The Falcons have plenty of offense, they just have not been able to finish.
“You say offense, and I’m looking for it still,” Nichols said. “We know we’ve got players who can score. It is going to happen.
“I thought it was going to happen tonight. I hoped it was going to happen tonight, but it will happen,” Nichols continued.
“We’ve got to keep doing what we are doing. We are going to stick to the process, keep getting tighter on defense, keep getting better in possession, and get a little bit hungry off the top and our goals will come.”
What was impressive was not only the play of Graves, but his defense, which did not allow the Buckeyes to score from the pitch, only from the PK.
Non-goalie diving and leaping saves came out of nowhere, especially in the first half, by senior defender Josh Erlandson, junior defender Joey Akpunonu, freshman defender Amer Dedic, and junior midfielder Kyle Cusimano.
Even senior Eli Slope, a forward from Bowling Green who went to Toledo St. John’s, came from his position to make two key NGS in the opening half.
“We’ve been defending well. That’s kind of our bread and butter — we defend as a unit, as a whole team, and our goalkeeper gets a lot of credit for saves and whatnot, but it is other guys,” Nichols said.
“We call it ‘framing the goal.’ It’s getting in front of the goal and making saves. It doesn’t surprise us when Eli saves one off the line and so on.”
If nothing else, the tightly contested match with the Buckeyes proves the Falcons can play with anyone in the country. The matchup with Ohio State was the first of three straight against Big Ten Conference schools.
On Labor Day, BGSU travels to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan at 2 p.m., and on Friday, the Falcons travel to East Lansing to take on Michigan State, kickoff at 7 p.m.
“I hope we can (compete with the best in the country) because you’ve seen the rest of our schedule. I mean, it does not get any easier after this,” Nichols said.
“I just thought we went toe-to-toe, and we weren’t playing to lose close, or to tie or something like that. We were playing to win.
“We think we can beat this team. We think we can beat the two teams, last weekend. The important part is that we continue to grow. We don’t let ourselves put our heads down because we didn’t get the result tonight.
“We are better today than we were two weeks ago and in two weeks we’ll be better than we are today. We’ll keep on that process,” Nichols said.