By: Chase Gardiner/GCU Staff
While it may not have been the highest profile soccer match of the night, it certainly was the most entertaining.
In Grand Canyon University men’s club soccer team’s first home game of the season, the Lopes treated their local fans to an incredible show of perseverance and determination by battling the University of Texas at El Paso for a 2-2 tie.
From the opening moments of the match, UTEP unleashed an unrelenting assault against a GCU squad that looked somewhat flat and deflated. The Lopes spent the majority of the first half on the defensive, struggling to match the intensity brought by their competitors. In fact, the Lopes were fortunate to only be down 1-0 at halftime after being outshot, 7-1, in shots on goal.
At the half, the Lopes’ coach implored his athletes to fight back with more ferocity. “In our first two matches, we had a lot more fire and competitive drive,” said GCU Club Head Men’s Soccer Coach Lance Thompson. “We didn’t really have that as much, so we addressed that, and definitely had it in the second half.”
The change in “fire and competitive drive” was easy to see, as the Lopes came out swinging once the second half began. They immediately began to push the ball on offense to start dictating the pace of the game. Within minutes, GCU had evened the score at 1-1 after a tremendous goal by the Lopes’ Daniel Malki.
The Lopes’ solid balance of attack and defense forced the Miners into difficult situations. One such situation led to a penalty kick, which allowed Jesus Ruiz to put the Lopes up by one in the late minutes of the match. The Lopes’ comeback victory was only foiled when UTEP scored the final goal only seconds before the clock expired.
While a tie wasn’t the outcome they had hoped for, it was far better than a potential loss. “It would’ve been nice to squeeze it out, but that game could’ve gone the other way on us too, so to get a point out of that is a good start for these guys,” commented Thompson. “We didn’t do such a great job of executing, but we will get better with that as time goes on. The good thing is that they do know their roles and responsibilities, and the execution will get better as we train and play more.”
If you want an opportunity to see this improvement for yourself, make sure to make it out to the next home game versus the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks on September 29th at 7:00 pm. Go Lopes!