Oakland 2, Milwaukee 1: Men’s soccer goes up early, holds lead

Oakland men’s soccer (5-7-0, 4-2-0) broke the slump at Milwaukee (6-5-2, 3-2-1). The Golden Grizzlies hadn’t scored a goal since the Dayton game on Sept. 24, but Chase Jabbori answered with two in the first half on Saturday, Oct. 15.

Oakland now sits at second in the Horizon League with 12 points.

“Just a really, really tough Horizon League battle between two good teams. Two hard-working, blue-collar, talented young teams,” Oakland head coach Eric Pogue said in a GrizzVision interview. “[It’s] mid-October, [and] this Horizon League table, it’s super super, tight right now.”

Oakland, which had fallen behind in the first half at Valparaiso on Oct. 1, against Wright State on Oct. 8 and at Ohio State on Oct. 11, changed its gameplay in this contest. Jabbori tracked a deflection off a free kick from Nebojsa Popovic and scored his fourth goal of the season late in the 10th minute. Popovic got the assist, and had almost scored with the free kick that prompted the goal.

“I was really proud of the guys,” Pogue said. “We talked as a group about coming out of the gates fast. Traditionally this year, we’ve dug ourselves a hole, got down a goal and were always trying to come back. So that was one of the real focuses: to come out strong.”

They did. Jabbori had attempted a shot that was blocked less than a minute before his goal. After the restart, Jabbori got a yellow card in the 14th. Oakland came back in the 21st minute. Alex Serwatka put up a header that went wide. Five seconds later, Popovic shot wide right.

Jabbori scored again in the 26th minute, his fifth of the year and second of the game. Oakland’s Wilfred Williams lobbed a pass to outside the top of the box. Austin Ricci one-touched it to Jabbori, who beat a defender and the advancing goalkeeper and sent it in. Ricci and Williams got the assist.

Oakland goalkeeper Liam McQueenie made a save in the 27th minute off a shot from Milwaukee’s Nick Moon. The Panthers assaulted again in the 33rd minute, putting up a shot, a header and two corner kicks in less than a minute. The shot and header were blocked.

Ricci got a chance in the 36th minute but sent the free kick wide right. Thirty seconds before the half, he made Panthers goalkeeper Sam Glass work again. Milwaukee’s Evan Dujardin countered with a shot on goal twenty seconds later. McQueenie made the save.

Milwaukee’s Evan Conway scored in the 54th minute with a header off a corner kick by Francesco Saporito. It was Conway’s sixth goal of the season. Saporito got the assist.

Oakland’s Dean Akeel got a red card in the 63rd minute.

“We went down a man, and for 30, 35 minutes the guys just battled their hearts out,” Pogue said. “It was a great character win. The work ethic, the heart, the determination of the group. To walk away in Milwaukee with a road win like this is huge for us.”

McQueenie made four saves in the second half to hold the game at 2-1. He manned the net for 90 minutes and made seven saves in all, allowing one goal. For Milwaukee, Glass played 90 minutes, made four saves and allowed two goals.

Jabbori, Popovic and Ricci each had two shots on goal. For Milwaukee, Conway had four shots on goal.

The Panthers outshot the Golden Grizzlies 21-16. The teams almost equally shared 49 fouls. Besides Akeel’s red card, Oakland got five yellow cards. Milwaukee got two yellow cards.

Four teams — Valparaiso, Cleveland State, UIC and Milwaukee — have one or two points less than Oakland in the Horizon League standings.

“I think that’s what you’re going to see day in and day out here in the Horizon League,” Pogue said. “Anybody can beat anyone on any given day. So when you go on the road to a place like Milwaukee and you get three points [in the league standings], you’re happy.”

Oakland plays the Belmont Bruins at the Oakland Soccer Field at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 22.