EUREKA, IL - The Emmaus Eagles travelled to Eureka, Illinois on Saturday to take on the Red Devils of Eureka College. Both teams entered the match with matching records at 3 wins and 1 loss, and the history between the two teams had both expecting a hard fought and very physical match. The game did not disappoint.
Both teams looked dangerous in the early minutes, winning some corners and creating a few chances. As the defenses for both teams settled in, the Eagles caught the first break in the 16th minute. Carson McBain (#11) sent in a long range free kick from near field that the wind caught, causing the Eureka keeper to misread and then bobble the ball into his own net. Just minutes later the Eagles nearly doubled their lead when freshman Wakilongo Ebake (#17) managed to get around the Red Devil keeper before seeing his shot saved off of the goal line by outstanding Eureka defender Tim Johnson (#3). The Eagles were not to be denied a second goal, however, and their second was a thing of beauty. After a steady stream of possession, freshman Sui Thang (#18) sent in a cross from wide right that Mason McCarl (#7) settled and deflected off of two closing Eureka defenders. The rebound fell to Anthony Flores (#10) who laid the ball off to Ebake (#17). The forward, then turned and calmly laid the ball of to McBain (#11), who blasted the ball from the top of the box into the back of the net for his second goal of the match. The half-time score held at 2-0.
The second half saw Emmaus come out fired up and looking to keep the intensity they had played with in the first half. As Eureka looked to establish more possession, the Eagle defense remained compact and patient. A turnover in the 49th minute proved costly to the Red Devils as Ebake(#17) intercepted a pass and slotted a shot past the Eureka keeper to give Emmaus a three goal lead.
After Emmaus scored its third goal, the game started to get a little chip, with Eureka picking up back to back yellow cards in the 60th minutes for arguing with the officials. The momentum of the game seemed to be going Emmaus' way, but the flow was about to be challenged. In the 65th minute, Ebake (#17) chased down a bouncing through ball that saw him collide hard with the Eureka keeper while his head was turned back in an effort to play the ball. He was penalized with a yellow card for a reckless challenge, which was his second of the match. The Eagles were fated to play with 10 men the rest of the way.
Looking to capitalize on the opportunity, Eureka went to work, creating a few dangerous chances, forcing Eagle keeper Gabe Salinas (#1) to make two big saves. Their persistence was finally awarded in the 83rd minute when Josh Mead (#25) settled a pass at the back post. His initial shot was blocked, but skipped right back to his left foot, which he used to slot the ball away and bring his team to within two.
The Eagles, despite playing down a player, still managed to launch some dangerous attacks, winning a corner in the 85th minute. Freshman Reilly Steel (#15) made a great play at the back post, smashing a header off the crossbar and straight down. While the referees signaled no goal, even a Eureka defender later admitted that he saw the ball cross the line. Nevertheless, the score stood at 3-1 as the 10-man Eagles held on for the 3-1 victory.
"That was great team soccer today," said Coach Brown. "The guys used the field well, found one another, and played unselfish soccer. They defended as a team. They stayed focused as a team. That was just an all-around solid win for us against a very talented Eureka side."
Coach Block voiced his approval of the result, applauding the midfield for controlling the tempo of the game and the rest of the team for executing several of the things we have been working on in practice.
The Eagles are now 4 and 1, extending their win streak to 4, and they have outscored their opponents 15-2 in that stretch. They will be on the road again next weekend as they take on conference opponents Ozark Christian College (Joplin, MO) and Calvary Bible College (Belton, MO) on September 21st and 22nd.