BUFFALO, NY - After a first half marred by fouls and inconsistency from both sides, the Buffalo men's soccer team opened up its 2012 home schedule with a 2-1 win over Big Four rival St. Bonaventure (0-2) Tuesday evening thanks to a pair of second-half goals. Richard Cravenscored his second goal in as many games, and Maksym Kowal converted on his first score of the season.
In the first 45 minutes, the two teams were muddled in the midfield and combined to only attempt seven shots while drawing 20 total fouls and three yellow cards. The Bulls (1-0-1) put two shots on goal but neither were threatening. The two teams regrouped at the half and the fans in attendance witnessed an entirely different game in the final half. In the 54th minute, Kowal struck a header from the left side that beat the goalkeeper, but the potential score was cleared away by a Bona defender. Despite the frustration, the Bulls would find the game's opening goal just five minutes later.
Moving up into the front line of the offense, Patrick Ryanwas the team's go-to attack man and was able to set up the first goal. After beating his defender up the left side, he crossed a ball tight into the box that found the head of Craven. Despite Bona goalie Bobby Diaz playing it right, the straight-on shot hit off his hands and ricocheted off the top post and across the line.
"Putting Pat up there, I know he has good feet, I know he can move the ball and beat people one on one," head coach David Hesch said. "We put him in and that was exactly what he did. If you give him time and space, he's going to get assists and goals."
The benefactor of Ryan's first assist of the season was equally complimentary.
"With Pat being so good on the ball, our objective was to get him the ball wide because he can beat any player," Craven said. "It was just on a plate for me."
Goal number two would come soon after for the reinvigorated Bulls. Joey Merlo started the second half and was an effective reserve, setting up Kowal with a perfect through ball in the 66th minute after blowing past his defender on the right wing and taking it inside before laying it off. Kowal earned his first goal of the season after skidding the ball low past Diaz for what would become the game-winning goal.
"We played with three central midfielders in the game and so did they, so it was very compact in the middle," Hesch said. "So making the small shift of putting two guys on the outside attack and defending with two in the middle really opened the game up."
The Bonnies would push up on the attack and earned a goal in the 81st minute after a shot came off the hands of UB goalie Jonathan Viscosi and right to a Bona forward who found the wide-open goal. Despite the frantic Bona attack in the final ten minutes of the game, the Bulls were able to possess the ball effectively enough to limit the opposition's chances. The UB defense allowed just two shots on goal for the entire game and held the Bonnies to just one shot in the final ten minutes of regulation.
Despite being out-shot 17-14, the Bulls opted for quality over quantity and put seven of its 14 attempts on goal. Overall in the game, 30 fouls were called and five yellow cards were shown.
With the win, the Bulls earn a day to rest up before a busy weekend. This Friday, the team will take on Binghamton at 7 pm and will cap the weekend Sunday against Siena, with first touch coming at 2 pm.