Boiling Springs, N.C. – Gardner-Webb scored two goals in the first half and used a solid team defensive effort to keep USC Upstate off the scoreboard as the Bulldogs took a 2-0 victory in non-conference men's soccer action Wednesday night at the GWU Soccer Complex.
Upstate fell to 0-2-0 to start the season and will return home next Tuesday to host its home opener next against UNC Asheville at 7:00 p.m. at County University Soccer Stadium. Gardner-Webb improved to 2-1-1 with the win.
Upstate missed a golden opportunity to take an early lead in the ninth minute. Rinaldi Alphonse (Palmetto, Ga.) gathered up a loose ball in the box and took a shot, but it was saved by GWU Matthew Swan.
Four minutes later, Gardner-Webb struck first to open a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute. It was the first of two goals in the first half. Arjun Jung had control of the ball at the top of the box and sent a shot toward the left side of the goal. It hit off the post and into the goal to give the Bulldogs the early lead.
After some back and forth play with little to no scoring opportunities for either team, Gardner-Webb opened a 2-0 lead in the 28th minute. Jung played a ball forward to Denzel Clarke on the left side. Clarke moved toward the goal and moved past a diving Dani Alvarado (Leander, Texas), Upstate's starting keeper, and put the shot away in the open net.
Gardner-Webb ended the first half with a 6-5 lead in shots.
Just as it had done in the season opener against Presbyterian last week, Upstate stepped up its pressure in the second half. Unlike last week's game, though, the Spartans could not cash in on their opportunities. Neither team found the back of the net as Gardner-Webb held on for the 2-0 win.
Upstate watched a common theme develop in the game and came to light in the second half. The Spartans were able to create chances and get off shots, but several were blocked by Bulldog defenders before the ball could even make it to the goal for GWU's keeper to make plays. Upstate took 13 shots in the game with five of them blocked by Bulldog defenders.
Gardner-Webb finished the game with a 17-13 lead in shots. The Bulldogs put 12 shots on goal, while Upstate put four shots on frame with the five blocked shots playing a factor in that total.
Swan finished the game with four saves to lead Gardner-Webb's defensive effort. Hassan El-Haddad (Marietta, Ga.) started the second half in goal for Upstate and came up with seven saves to lead the Spartans.