Flames Take Down Cal State Fullerton, 3-2 OT, in Season Opener

Redshirt-junior Thomas Villamil came away with the game-winning header in overtime.
Redshirt-junior Thomas Villamil came away with the game-winning header in overtime.
Aug. 29, 2014

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CHICAGO - The UIC men's soccer team (1-0-0) battled to a 3-2 overtime victory on Friday night in its season opener against Cal State Fullerton at Flames Field. A corner kick taken by junior Joel Salmeron set up redshirt-junior Thomas Villamil with the game-winning header in the 92nd minute.

"I think this was a big win for us," head coach Sean Phillips said. "Compliments to Cal State Fullerton and their staff. They are a very talented, difficult team with great balance of technique and physical ability that I think is going to be turning some heads as the season goes on. Their staff has done a great job in a small amount of time with getting that program in a good place."

UIC and CSF fought for possession in the first half, with scoring opportunities coming on both ends of the field. The Flames held a 5-4 shot advantage, with two shots from sophomore Kyle Hamann and junior Manny Chavez resulting in saves by the Titans goalkeeper Jeff Salt.

The Flames opened the second half by getting on the board in the 53rd minute when freshman Jose Fuentes dished the ball up the field to senior Jesus Torres, who dribbled around the Titans defenders and scored the first goal of the 2014 season. Torres got off two more shots before he crossed a pass to freshman Sergio Fuentes to give UIC a 2-0 lead in the 65th minute.

An unfortunate own goal in the 69th minute brought CSF within one. After UIC held off the Titans with less than 10 minutes in regulation, CSF's Marc Fenelus sailed in a corner kick that was headed by Alex Heilmann to Amara Soumah for the equalizer.

"We have got to address giving away a two-goal lead in the last 15 minutes, but one of the signs of a good team is leadership. I think some of our older players, before the start of overtime, looked at each other and said that we are going to turn the momentum around and we are going to find a way to win this game."

The Flames did not waste any time heading into OT as redshirt-juniors Zack Judickas and Piotr Lagowski quickly created an opportunity to set up the game-winning play. Salermon lined up to take the corner kick and shot the ball in to an awaiting Villamil, who headed in the ball just one minute and 12 seconds into overtime.

"One of the intangibles that this group showed, that carried over from last year's group, was the ability to find a way to win in adverse conditions, which is going to be a necessity for us to go where we want to go."

Sophomore Andrew Putna made two saves on the night in goal for UIC, while continuously breaking up crosses and scoring chances by the Titans. Salt had four saves on the night against the Flames while giving up three goals.

UIC returns to Flames Field on Sunday to wrap up opening weekend against San Francisco. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. CT.