49ers deal loss to road-weary Marquette

Dave Rossetti

In a first half that saw the Golden Eagles get outshot 10-3 and senior goalkeeper Adam Ubert make four saves, the 49ers were able to break through for their first goal at 20:18. Midfielder Sean Zubick collected a crossing pass from midfielder Michael Rose and put it into the lower-left corner of the goal.

Just before halftime, Golden Eagles junior forward Chris Lee — who leads C-USA with 14 goals — fired a header into the crossbar, missing on one of the Golden Eagles’ best scoring opportunities.

“I had a really frustrating game,” Lee said. “I couldn’t really get anything going.”

The 49ers added an insurance goal at 88:11 when midfielder Floyd Franks took a pass from midfielder Evan Harding and connected for his team-leading fifth goal of the season.

Despite testing Charlotte goalkeeper Lucas Mackanos with seven shots, some of which were strong scoring chances, head coach Steve Adlard said his team struggled to mount a consistent attack.

“Everything we did was sporadic,” Adlard said. “Opportunities came but went quickly. Here it comes, now it’s gone. Here comes another one, now it’s gone. There weren’t waves of pressure overall. That was unfortunate but it’s the reality of it.”

With only one conference game left on the slate, the Golden Eagles are not guaranteed a berth in the C-USA tournament. Only the top six teams in the 10-team conference qualify for the postseason.

The best way for the Golden Eagles — the sixth seed if the season ended today — to emerge from the muddled standings is to post a victory in their next game against Cincinnati, Adlard said.

“We feel like this is one of those do or die, backs to the walls situations and we need to recognize it,” he said. “The safe way to take care of business is to win on Saturday. We’ve reached a very critical moment here where qualification is the balance. We obviously just need to take care of business against what will obviously be a very good Cincinnati team.”

The Golden Eagles will have the opportunity to clinch a berth against Cincinnati (8-3-5, 4-2-1 C-USA) at 1 p.m. Saturday at home, where they are 8-1 this season. Conversely, Marquette has not won away from Valley Fields since beating Denver at a neutral site to start the season Aug. 29.

Adlard said he’s uncertain why the team has struggled so much away from home.

“We don’t play the same way,” he said. “We as coaches try to, but the team does not have that same comfort level or commitment or confidence – maybe it’s a combination of the three. We have moments of lucidity — (like in a 3-2 loss) at Birmingham — and we actually felt the rug was pulled out by the officiating there. By the same token, we played against a couple of teams early in the season where we weren’t competitive, almost like we were afraid.”

With the frustrating road season behind them, Lee thinks the Golden Eagles will be ready for the Bearcats.

“We’re really positive going into the game,” he said. “We’re looking forward to a good week of practice, and we can win and get in the tournament. We like our odds at home, too.”