Upsets were the theme of the opening day of the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Men’s Soccer Championship as sixth-seeded Central Arkansas and fifth-seeded Drake both advanced against their higher-seeded opponents Wednesday night at Shea Stadium.
UCA (8-8-1) rode the first half goal of Daniel Sampedro and goalkeeper Cody Gibson to a 1-0 victory against third-seeded host Bradley (10-6-4), while Drake (6-10-4) stunned fourth-seeded Evansville (9-8-1) on a 90th minute goal for a 2-1 victory in the tourney opener.
Drake will face regular-season Valley champion Creighton in Friday’s 3 p.m. semifinal, while Central Arkansas will take on No. 2 seed SIU-Edwardsville in the 6 o’clock semi, both at Shea Stadium.
Both games featured matchups between teams that tied during the regular-season and Friday’s play was nearly as equal.
UCA put together a combination on the right flank that sprang Sampedro into the penalty area, where he was able to beat Bradley keeper Brian Billings with a low shot inside the right post. Michael Quinn and Ethan Miller set up the goal, Sampedro’s third of the year, at 36:03.
The Braves had plenty of chances to find the equalizer in the second half, but could not push through. Junior midfielder Keegan Balle whipped a header off the right post in the 53rd minute, Gibson made a brilliant save on a Grant Bell shot in the 61st minute, Bell was turned away by a Bears defender at the left post in the 73rd minute and Jochen Graf hit the cross with a header in the 84th minute.
The loss snapped Bradley’s seven-game home unbeaten streak and was the first loss by the host school in the MVC Tournament since the Braves beat Creighton in the 2007 championship game. Bradley also eliminated host Evansville in the quarterfinals of the 2008 tournament in a penalty kick shootout after battling the Purple Aces to a 0-0 draw.
The day’s first game featured a bit of controversy after Evansville took the early lead on a 17th minute strike by Joel Craig. The Bulldogs found the equalizer in the 24th minute on a header by Jarred Arde. Evansville keeper Eric Teppen appeared to make the save at the right post, but the linesman ruled the ball had crossed the goal line and immediately signaled for the goal.
The score remained knotted into the game’s final minute, when Drake freshman Eric Williams collected a pass from Michael Thaden on the right flank, dribbled across the top of the penalty area, then lined his game-winner into the upper left corner at 89:36.