NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Lipscomb men’s soccer team closed its preseason portion of the schedule with a 4-4 draw in its final exhibition match Saturday night at the rain-soaked Lipscomb Soccer Complex.
“Tonight was a little different from the first exhibition game against Cincinnati, but it was certainly good to get back out on the field again,” Lipscomb head coach Charles Morrow said. “We had fresh legs and I thought it really showed in the things we were able to do in terms of creating opportunities and chances as well as the defensive pressure we were able to apply.”
The Bisons took advantage on one of those early opportunities when freshman Javier Leija crossed a beautiful ball into the box for junior Kyle Smith, who settled it at his feet before firing a left-footed strike past the keeper and into the upper 90 to give Lipscomb a 1-0 lead just 15 minutes into the match.
With the momentum seemingly in favor of the home team, the Bison defense made two silly mistakes that led to goals on a free kick and a penalty shot just minutes apart.
“After the first game with Cincinnati, a lot of our focus has been on team defense,” Morrow said. “As a team tonight, I thought we played well, but individually we did not and that will be a main focus this upcoming week in practice.”
With halftime lurking the Bisons wanted to get to the break with no further damage, but as the clock ticked to one minute remaining, another goal was scored by the opposition and Lipscomb found itself in a 3-1 hole after the opening 45 minutes.
“I thought we played really well tonight as a team,” Daniel Vieira said. “We made a few silly errors early in the first half that got us down. But we stayed together and had a belief to keep going and we were able to pull ourselves up and get back in it.”
Morrow and his staff entered the match with the plan of rotating as many guys into action as possible so that they could get the feel of play before next week’s regular season opener.
“One good thing about this being a preseason game is that we got to see a lot of guys play,” Morrow said. “Every player who was healthy saw the field tonight. It’s good to get that experience and see those players this early in the season.”
One key addition to the lineup was Vieira. The senior from South Africa was active in the middle of the pitch and found himself with a hand in all three of the Bisons second-half goals.
With 7:44 remaining in the match, Vieira curled a shot towards the far post from 10 yards out, but the keeper was able to get a hand on it with a diving effort. However, the ball bounced out to the top of the box where freshman Bennie Harris found himself with enough room to lace the ball into the back of the net and cut the deficit to one.
After surrendering another goal, the Bisons found themselves facing a 4-2 hole with just five minutes to play. That was enough time, however, for Vieira to take control.
Vieira scored to bring Lipscomb within one when he scored on a volley from 18 yards out. Freshman Malik Shaheed got the assist after he leaped to win a ball played from the left sideline and headed it back out for a wide-open Vieira.
Just seconds later Vieira scored again to bring the match level at 4-4.
“After working on team defense earlier this week, we spent the last few days working in the attacking third and I thought that showed tonight with the opportunities we were able to create,” Morrow said.
The Bisons will kick off the 2016 regular season next Friday on August 26 when they play host to Florida Atlantic at 7 p.m. It will be the opening game of the Lipscomb/Belmont Challenge that will also bring Western Illinois to town for a Sunday matinee at 1 p.m.
“We are already anxious to get back on the field and see what these guys can do,” Morrow said. “We hope to have a big crowd and are looking forward to seeing all of the fans out on the hill.”