The UNLV men’s soccer team lost 2-1 to the Air Force Falcons in its first game of conference play Friday afternoon at Peter Johann Memorial Field.
“We can’t give up goals and think we’re going to win games,” head coach BJ Craig said. “I thought we grew as the game went and it looked like we could’ve scored three today.”
The Rebels pressed the Falcons early. UNLV’s Jonah Craig made a run into the box, but the Falcons’ defense managed to clear the ball out before he could get a shot off.
A few minutes later, UNLV’s Daniel Rojas went down inside the penalty area in what looked like a foul by the Falcons. However, the referee waved off the penalty shouts.
Fifteen minutes into the game, the Falcons began to gain some momentum. Jake Chaffetz had his shot blocked and five minutes later Elijah Bussey saw his shot easily saved by UNLV goalkeeper Andrew Sway.
The Falcons’ pressure appeared to be frustrating the Rebels and it culminated in the 22nd minute. Chaffetz’s shot went in this time making it 1-0 to the Falcons.
The Rebels searched for an equalizer, but in doing so left themselves open defensively. The Falcons broke down the left wing and Bussey’s shot hit the left post.
The Falcons started to maintain control of the game. The Rebels got a break later in the first half when Air Force’s London Aghedo’s goal was called offside, and the game stayed 1-0.
The Rebels looked better in the final 15 minutes of the half, but in the 44th minute they made a crucial error. UNLV’s Cesar Carbajal committed a foul in the box which gave the Falcons a penalty.
Aghedo stepped up and scored the penalty to double the Falcons’ lead at halftime. The half ended 2-0 to the Air Force.
There was a clear sense of urgency from the Rebels as the second half began. UNLV’s Hayden Prasad and Brophy Howard both had early chances, but still no goals came.
The Falcons still threatened. Air Force’s Nick Bourgeois had Sway beaten, but luckily the Rebels’ defense cleared the ball before it could go in.
A corner kick for the Falcons then turned into a breakaway for the Rebels. UNLV’s Skyler Goo got through on goal and may have scored if not for a fantastic tackle by Aghedo.
Finally, the Rebels had their chance. A foul in the box by Air Force’s Matt Benson meant a penalty for the Rebels.
UNLV’s Nico Clasen took the penalty and scored. UNLV trailed 2-1.
It became a rather scrappy and ugly game from then on. Four yellow cards were dished out over a 10-minute period.
The Rebels piled on the pressure but ran out of time. The game finished 2-1 to the Falcons.
“I’m proud of the guys. I’m proud of the way we fought,” Craig said. “This is league play now, so you got to step up and you got to play big now, and these are lessons we have been learning and this is now the next step.”
The loss leaves the Rebels with a record of 1-4-4, 0-0-1, with their only win coming against Pacific on Sept. 15.
Up next, the Rebels will continue conference play against Grand Canyon on Oct. 2 for Kick Cancer Night. The Rebels will then play their first away conference game against Houston Christian on Friday.