UIC Flames keep playoff hopes alive

By Nader Ihmoud

With winds reaching 28 miles per hour, the University of Illinois at Chicago Flames men’s soccer team still found a way to get the ball in the goal on a night that Wright State University could not.

The Flames won the match on Oct. 26 at Flames Field, 901 W. Roosevelt Road, 2-0 with goals from the Horizon League conference’s top two scorers, senior forward Eric Frazier (83:22) and junior midfielder Ivan Stanisavljevic (88:34), that put the game out of reach.

Wright State assistant coach Jake Slemker said Flames Field is a tough place to play and that home field advantage is big, but his team missed out on some opportunities, such as “a deflection off the keeper that we put over the bar.”

The game was tied at zero going into the half as both teams struggled to execute, but late in the second half, the Flames began triumphing.

Frazier’s goal followed a free kick. The senior created separation from the defender and sent the ball into the near post with a header assisted by Stanisavljevic. Frazier’s goal put the Flames up for good in what he said was the team’s most important win so far.

“It is the best feeling in the world, especially scoring here on our field [in front of] our fans,” Frazier said.

According to Flames’ head coach Sean Phillips, the team had recently been working on moving the ball side to side to get more one-on-one matchups for easier scoring opportunities.

“We scored so many goals at the start of the season [that] people were starting to double team our players,” Phillips said.

Frazier’s goal at the time tied him with teammate Stanisavljevic to lead their conference in goals scored this season. But shortly thereafter, Stanisavljevic retook first place in the category.

With less than two minutes remaining in the game, the two teammates switched places from the earlier score, this time Frazier assisting Stanisavljevic on a break away goal.

“We are teammates—there is no me without him,” Frazier said. “I don’t really think about it. We are scoring goals and winning games [during the playoffs]. That’s what it’s about. At the end of the year, if we aren’t at the top then [me and Stanisavljevic being leading scorers] doesn’t matter.”

Prior to the Oct. 26 showdown, the Flames lost two conference games in a row and were headed into the match in sixth place in the Horizon League standings while Wright State sat at second. The top six teams enter the playoffs. The Flames were also in a virtual tie with Butler University, but held the tie breaker over Butler.

The win puts the team in a definitive sixth place with a 2-2-2 conference record and an 8-4-3 record overall. Five of the team’s eight victories have come on the Flames’ home field.

UIC has three games until the Horizon League tournament on Nov. 8. All three are conference matches. Next up for the Flames are two away games against first place Valparaiso University and Loyola University. The team ends its season against University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin at home.