Concordia rides Rhodes goal to 2-0 GPAC start

By Jacob Knabel on Sep. 23, 2021 in Men's Soccer

SEWARD, Neb. – A goal less than two minutes after kickoff proved to be all the Concordia University Men’s Soccer team needed in a shutout victory on Wednesday (Sept. 22) night. The exceptional play of the visiting goalkeeper played a large role in limiting the goal count for the Bulldogs, who edged out Dordt, 1-0, inside Bulldog Stadium. Eli Rhodes picked up his first career collegiate goal in the win.

Head Coach Jason Weides’ squad also defeated Mount Marty this past Saturday and moved to 4-3-1 overall (2-0 GPAC). Concordia seized control of Wednesday’s affair, it just couldn’t find that second goal.

“We came out well and Eli had a great strike for the first goal,” Weides said. “It was one of those things where maybe we got a little bit complacent and was on cruise control given we got the lead so early. You want to score early, but sometimes the response from that isn’t the best. We had some really good attaching chances in the first half. We challenged the team to be better at combining through the middle and we were far better in this game … Their keeper came up with some really good saves.”

A powerful strike from Rhodes in the second minute forced the Defenders to play catch up all night. Dordt keeper Brandon Hansen ensured that his side hung tight on the road. Hansen totaled 10 saves, including one just before halftime that he made by sprawling to his left to deny a laser off the foot of Carlos Orquiz. Nine different Bulldogs put at least one shot on goal.

On the other end, Gabriel Mendoza started at keeper while making his first career appearance with the Bulldogs. Mendoza made four saves as Concordia picked up a second shutout in a row. Of course Mendoza had a reliable back line in front of him, headed by captain center back Decker Mattimoe. There were precious few prime scoring chances for Dordt, which was outshot, 20-4.

Rhodes had contributed three assists this season prior to his goal on Wednesday. He was assisted by Yessine Bessaïes on the strike that proved to be the game winner. Though still young in his career, Rhodes has reason to believe the Bulldogs have the ability to make some noise.

Said Rhodes, “We set a team goal to be at the top of the GPAC and I really think that we’re up there. I haven’t seen all the teams in the GPAC, but I honestly think that we’re one of the best teams. We can compete with anyone when we play how we should play.”

The feeling is that this team is close to clicking. There have been moments here and there that have held Concordia back at times. Said Weides, “Our guys came out with a really good mentality in the second half and continued to create a lot of chances. We’re either one step off putting it in the back of the net or the keeper would come up with a good save. It was frustrating in that regard, but I thought it was a convincing performance.”

The first road test within conference play is coming up Saturday when the Bulldogs will be in Orange City, Iowa, for a 3:15 p.m. CT kickoff at Northwestern (6-1-1, 2-0 GPAC). The contest will be a rematch of the GPAC quarterfinals this past spring when the Red Raiders advanced in a marathon penalty kick shootout. Northwestern received votes in this week’s NAIA coaches’ poll and topped No. 22 Morningside in overtime, 2-1, on Wednesday.