If early season matchups are any indication, offense and discipline might be a point of concern for the Ohio State men’s soccer team.
OSU started its regular season with two games as part of the Bert and Iris Wolstein Classic this weekend and tied both games while scoring two total goals on top of being shown a total of two yellow cards and one red card. OSU’s opponents were issued a total of eight yellow cards and one red card between the two games.
The Buckeyes (0-0-2) battled the University of California-Davis to a scoreless draw in double overtime Friday night, before having almost the same result — albeit with a total of four goals — against Butler University on a rain-soaked Sunday afternoon, resulting in a 2-2 tie.
The first half of the Sunday matchup against Butler (1-0-1) ended with OSU failing to register a shot on goal as the two teams entered the half scoreless.
The second half, on the other hand, was much more explosive.
A frantic stretch began at about the 65th minute, when OSU junior defender Kyle Culbertson dove into the leg of Butler’s junior midfielder Vincent Mitchell. As Mitchell was lying on the ground, Culbertson was issued a red card, knocking OSU down to 10 men for the remainder of the game.
Less than a minute later, despite being short-handed, sophomore forward Danny Jensen fought around with the ball in front of the net surrounded by three Butler defenders. His maneuvers were enough to draw a foul, and the referee whistled for a penalty kick.
Buckeye junior midfielder Liam Doyle took the kick, and OSU saw a tally on the scoreboard for the first time.
Doyle said being able to get that first goal — both of his OSU career and the team’s season — was a big relief and allowed the offense to press the issue less.
That lead, however, disappeared before the offense had time to relax.
The Bulldogs tied the game just 17 seconds later, when OSU senior goalie Alex Ivanov mishandled a shot from junior forward Jeff Adkins.
The shot was hit straight at Ivanov, but the wet conditions appeared to make him fumble it and it rolled past the goal line.
“(That goal) is just a blur to me, I try to block that out after it happened,” sophomore defender Tyler Kidwell, who was named to the Classic’s all-tournament team alongside Doyle, said. “I think the ball just got deflected, and somehow snuck in between the pipes. It was unfortunate.”
Butler grabbed the lead at about the 74th minute when a connection between preseason All-Big East selections David Goldsmith and Zach Steinberger enabled Goldsmith to launch a shot past Ivanov.
But, borrowing Butler’s strategy of answering a goal immediately, the Buckeyes scored less than a minute later. A scramble in front of the Butler net allowed senior midfielder Yianni Sarris to dribble a shot that crept over the line.
“I’m extremely happy with our team,” coach John Bluem said. “A man down, we scored twice.”
The lineups became even again during the 82nd minute, when Mitchell tackled OSU sophomore forward Christian Soldat with both feet, earning a red card. Soldat was down initially, but rose to his feet within seconds and did not leave the game.
No more opportunities came in regulation, and the game again headed to overtime. The offensive opportunities regressed to first-half levels in the 20 minutes of overtime, and OSU had their second-consecutive draw to open the season.
“(Butler is) a very, very good team,” Bluem said. “When you get to the end of the season and we look back on this result, I think that we’ll be pretty happy to come away with a 2-2 draw.”
The Buckeyes’ season opener on Friday saw yellow cards outnumber total shots on goal seven to six between the two teams.
“The game got a little bit chippy, I think, right from the very beginning,” Bluem said. “There (were) some hard challenges right away, so I think both teams got after it a little bit.”
Both teams struggled for scoring opportunities in the game as UC-Davis totaled just three shots on goal while the Buckeyes had three shots on goal of their own on 21 total shots.
“I think (the offense struggling) was something where, we were doing the right things, it just wasn’t — the final ball or that final pass wasn’t unlocking the defense,” junior midfielder Zach Mason said. “I think we had the right idea. It was just that execution of that final pass, that critical pass.”
A scoreless opener was certainly not what Bluem was hoping to see after he said the majority of the offseason was focused on improving the offense. The Buckeyes were shut out nine times in 17 regular season games in 2013.
However, Bluem said he wasn’t unhappy with the effort and chances his team created.
“It’s a positive result. I think our guys feel like we should’ve won the game,” Bluem said. “Statistically, we dominated the game, dominated possession, corner kicks, shots, and the only thing we didn’t do is score.”
The Buckeyes’ next games are set for Friday and Sunday in Wilmington, N.C., against the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and Elon, respectively, before returning home to face Northwestern on Sept. 14.