For the Ohio State men’s soccer team, home field has provided a much needed advantage.
Coming into Wednesday’s game, OSU was riding a three-game home winning streak, averaging 2.67 goals per game while only allowing 0.67 goals per game over that stretch.
The home cooking would sizzle out as the Buckeyes lost a back-and-forth contest against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, 3-2, the first loss in their last four matches at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
“It was a hard night,” OSU coach John Bluem said. “SIUE is struggling a little bit like we are so they were hungry to get a win. It felt like we were playing against 12 guys tonight.”
The momentum was hard to grasp in the first period, as both teams seemed to score at will.
Just eight minutes into the match, sophomore midfielder Abdi Mohamed floated a cross from the right side of the net to the left that allowed senior forward Danny Jensen to slide in and bury just past the goalkeeper, giving the Buckeyes an early 1-0 lead.
It was the fourth goal of the season for Jensen, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week.
The teams traded goals right up to the whistle. As the Buckeyes looked to take a 2-1 lead into halftime, the Cougars continued to fight and were rewarded for their efforts.
In the last 10 seconds of the period, SIUE senior midfielder Gabe Christianson was able to get a header to fall off a corner kick from senior defender Andrew Kendall-Moullin, tying the game up at two a piece just before the break.
The score would remain at 2-2 for most of the second period, but the Cougars would deal the final blow.
With just two minutes remaining, SIUE junior forward Devyn Jambga took a heel-kick pass at the top of the box and launched the ball into the back right corner, handing the Buckeyes their first home loss since Aug. 28.
The Cougars brought a couple familiar faces to Columbus.
Head coach Mario Sanchez played under Bluem when the two were at Fresno State.
“[Sanchez] was one of the best players I have ever had and I have been coaching Division I soccer for a long time,” Bluem said. “When he played for me he was a coach on the field and he is a very good coach now. I have a ton of respect for him.”
Along with Sanchez, the Cougars brought to town a transfer from Ohio State, sophomore midfielder Greg Solawa. Solawa made five starts for the Buckeyes a year ago, appearing in 11 games.
“It’s always fun coming into the game knowing that you’re going to play against a guy you used to play with,” said Austin Bergstrom, OSU senior defender. “You always want to be the one on top when the last whistle blows. Unfortunately, he got the best of us tonight.”
Solawa recorded one assist in the game against OSU.
Despite scoring both of their goals in the first period, the Buckeyes were statistically better in the second period, outshooting the Cougars 7-4 after getting outshot 7-3 in the first period.
“I was happy that we did create more opportunities in the second half,” Bluem said. “I think we were hurt by some critical mistakes and that has kind of been the story of the season this year. We punish ourselves by making stupid mistakes.”
The Buckeyes will have to find a way to fix their mistakes before Sunday, when they take on Big Ten foe Michigan State at home. While just 3-7 overall on the season, the Scarlet and Gray could advance to 3-1 in conference play with a win over the Spartans.
“We learn the most from our losses,” Bergstrom said. “I think we just got to come out on Sunday and know that we can’t have any letdowns. We’ve got to go forward having our heads up.”