BUFFALO, NY - It was a successful homecoming for the Buffalo Bulls in more ways than one Friday afternoon. Not only was it the first game of homecoming weekend, but it also was the team's first game at UB Stadium in 26 days. The team (3-10-1, 1-3 MAC) snapped its four-game losing streak and beat the Florida Atlantic Owls (2-10-1, 0-5 MAC) 1-0, earning the Bulls three important points in the Mid-American Conference playoff hunt. Richard Craven scored the game's only goal in the first half, and Jonathan Viscosi secured the team's first shutout of the season with seven saves.
Though the Bulls were out shot 16-9, six of the team's shots were put on goal while another was blocked in the box. Marek Albert almost put the team up by two within the first 15 minutes, but his shot in the fourth minute was blocked down under ten yards from goal, and his wide-open opportunity on goal in the 13th minute was saved by FAU goalie Jeremy Crumpton. The Owls almost got a goal of its own, though, putting a pair of testing shots on Viscosi in the 36th minute. Daniel Mendes tried to go far post with a shot from just inside the right side of the 18-yard box, but Viscosi stretched out to push it away. The rebound was corraled by an FAU attacker, but Viscosi again smothered the shot.
After recording a career-high 11 saves in the last game out, Viscosi not only made seven stops on Friday but also controlled Florida Atlantic's crossing game. The Owls earned six corner kicks to just one for the Bulls, but the senior goalkeeper was able to sniff out opportunities to limit the opposition.
"Jon was great today," head coach David Hesch said. "I've been on him for the past couple weeks to step up and make those big saves when we need them and Florida Atlantic put a couple of great shots on goal today but he stopped them. He was world class today for us when we needed him to be."
Fueled by the big stop on defense, the Buffalo offense responded with a goal in the 39th minute thanks to an aggressive run by Joey Merlo. The senior took the ball one-on-one to the right side and put a cross deep through the box to Maksym Kowal, who touched the ball on to the far post, where Craven was waiting with an empty net to cash in on. The goal was Craven's fourth of the season, setting a new career high for the junior midfielder.
The Bulls had numerous chances in the second half to extend the lead, but none came to fruition. Merlo had a breakaway opportunity that was smothered by the FAU goalie, Patrick Ryan had two well-paced shots on goal, and Albert again came up empty despite being one of the team's best creators on offense.
Coach Hesch was pleased with the total team effort, but remains committed to improving the team's opportunistic approach on offense.
"Our game plan today was more defensive than anything because we were down two starters on our defensive back line, so we wanted to be tight on our marks and then get out and counter attack," Hesch said. "We did a great job of that and even though we can still get better, we have a breath of life heading into our Western Michigan game."
The team remains in must-win mode heading into next Friday's match at home against Western Michigan. First touch against the Broncos is scheduled for 7 pm.