Needless to say it was a disappointing home soccer opener for the Bears, who fell to McMinn County 4-1 in an important District 5-AAA match.
Spring break must have still been buzzing in a few Bradley heads, because it was easy to see who wanted to be out on the pitch and who wanted to still be at home.
For their part, McMinn possessed the ball well during several points in the match. Yet, the Cherokees too appeared stricken by the apathy bug, and during stages the soccer match descended into a glorified game of kickball.
The Cherokees did strike first when play began, pushing a pass down the sideline to get a good look in the eighth minute. But, despite the break the push floundered and resulted in nothing.
Bradley answered when Miles Christian broke free at the top of the McMinn box and pushed a shot just high in the next minute of play.
Then, the Cherokees took control. In the 18th minute they launched a rocket on goal that Bradley’s keeper managed to smother, but just a minute later a header off a sideline feed found the back of the Bear net to make it 1-nil.
Christian gave the Bears another good opportunity in the 27th minute when a shot from the box looked destined to tie the score, only to bang off the goalpost and careen out of bounds.
Just three minutes later Bradley had another chance when another offensive push seemed to have the Cherokee defense beat only to come away empty handed once again.
McMinn capitalized on the missed opportunities, pushing the ball down the field with success, and in the 31st minute it paid off when a lob pass found an open forward with room to move. The forward made a move on the Bear keeper and snuck one in the goal to bring the score to 2-nil.
A single minute passed before the visiting Cherokees were back threatening again. A first shot on goal was successfully diverted back onto the pitch by the keeper, right into the waiting arms of another McMinn striker who took advantage of an empty net to bring it to 3-nil.
Things were not completely lost for Bradley as Christian broke free one last time in the first half to finally put Bradley on the board in the closing minutes of the half, bringing it to 3-1.
It says a lot about a team when their backs are to the wall and the clock is winding down. Some competitors will push on even in the face of certain defeat, leaving it all on the field and coming away with no excuses. Others will phone it in, deciding the game is already over.
There was much more of the latter than the former Tuesday evening.
That’s not to say there weren’t a few individuals out on the pitch giving it their all, but the overall barometer of the Bradley team was one of early defeat.
McMinn put a quality shot on goal in the 56th minute of play and followed it up four minutes later with a kill shot that brought it to the final of 4-1.
With 24 minutes left on the clock neither team could muster much more. In the 62nd minute both teams traded shot attempts that banged off the bars.
There were more shot attempts by both teams, but the Cherokees did what they needed to do to keep Bradley off the board in the second half and, in the end, walked away with an important district win.
Bradley will have some time to try and shake off the rust as they won’t be back in action until Tuesday when they travel to Ooltewah to take on the Owls in another important district match.