Men’s soccer faces loss to Cleveland

Friday’s 7 p.m. home game vs. UIC will decide if Oakland goes to playoffs

Oakland men’s soccer (5-10-0, 4-4-0) put up 11 shots on goal without any sticking Saturday night in a 2-0 loss at Cleveland State (7-7-2, 4-2-2) on Oct. 29. Oakland midfielder Austin Ricci put up six shots on goal. Vikings goalkeeper Sebastian Kalk made 10 saves, the team one.

Oakland is now No. 6 in the Horizon League, Cleveland State No. 4.

“I don’t think it was a 2-0 game,” Oakland head coach Eric Pogue said in a GrizzVision interview. “I sound like a broken record all the time . . . We’re just struggling to find the back of the net.”

Oakland’s Chase Jabbori got the game started in the fourth minute with a shot that the Viking team saved. Oakland got four corner kicks between the 42nd and 43rd minutes, but netted no points.

Both Viking goals came in the second half, the first one in the 60th minute off Gianluca DiFranco, his second goal of the season. DiFranco stole the ball from an Oakland defender in Cleveland’s attacking third, had a one-on-one battle with the Oakland goalkeeper Liam McQueenie, and got a low shot in.

Then in the 86th minute, Cleveland State’s Sergio Manesio scored his third goal of the season off a penalty kick. It became 2-0 Cleveland State, and it stayed that way despite a shot by Oakland midfielder Wilfred Williams that was blocked and a shot by Ricci that was saved by Kalk.

The Golden Grizzlies put up 21 shots in total, outshooting Cleveland State, which got 18. Oakland had six corners to the Vikings’ five.

“If we weren’t creating opportunities, there’d be more cause for concern,” Pogue said. “But we’re creating tons of opportunities. We don’t have that killer instinct yet.”

McQueenie made three saves, but let in two. He played all 90 minutes.

“We’re putting ourselves in a tough position where we can’t make any individual errors because we’re having a hard time scoring goals,” Pogue said. “There’s a lot of pressure on everybody, and I think everybody’s feeling that pressure, from the coaching staff all the way down to the players.”

Oakland midfielders Dean Akeel and Alex Serwatka, and forward Nebojsa Popovic, each put up one shot on goal along with Ricci’s six. Jabbori put up two.

Oakland and Cleveland State each got 18 fouls. Serwatka got a yellow card along with Cleveland State’s Jordan Ianiro.

“We’re not accustomed to losing,” Pogue said. However, “The way we’re playing right now isn’t a losing team.”

The next game is Friday, and it’s elimination, Pogue said. If the Golden Grizzlies win, they’re in the playoffs. It’s the biggest game of the year, he said.

“We gotta really rest,” Pogue said. “We’ve got a lot of tired bodies right now, tired minds.”

Oakland plays the University of Illinois at Chicago at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, Nov. 4. The game will be streamed on ESPN3. Going in, Oakland is sixth in the Horizon League, while UIC is second.