Men’s soccer picks up draw in defensive struggle

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The BYU Soccer team was able to come away with a point after a strong defensive showing on the road against an undefeated Fresno squad Thursday night.

BYU had only one shot attempt on goal all night and were forced to defend against the offensively minded Fuego. Fresno totaled seven shots on goal and BYU goalkeeper Brian Hale totaled the same number of saves.

“We ended up defending a lot more than we would have liked,” head coach Chris Watkins said, “but we had a massive effort tonight.”

Hale, who trained with professional team Real Salt Lake, had four saves in the first half and three in the second as Fresno maintained possession for just over 50 percent of the time. Hale had help from his back line, Sterling Hancock, Alex Neff and James Bindrup. The defenders stepped up big and kept the pressure off Hale as much as they could, forcing corner kick after corner kick.

The Cougar offense left something to be desired, with only one good look coming in the first half. Kip Critchlow was able to put a through ball on frame, but a diving save from the Fuego goalkeeper kept BYU scoreless. The Cougars had more opportunities in the second half but couldn’t capitalize on them.

Despite a slow offensive night, BYU saw a huge improvement in completed passes, something they struggled with in their last game against the Blues. Watkins was impressed with his team’s performance in Fresno and was hopeful that this unselfish trend will continue and help them improve as the season goes on.

“Getting a point in Fresno in front of their huge crowd is a nice step for us.” Watkins said.

In the first half, the Fuego dominated in shots, time of possession and corner kicks. But after some corrections at the half by Watkins, the Cougars came out in the second half and were able to control the ball, shoot the ball more and dramatically decrease the Fuego’s corner kick opportunities.

With the draw, BYU improves its record to 1–0–1 and are currently atop the Southwest Division. The Cougars will travel to Ventura, Calif., to take on the Fusion in a Saturday night match.

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