The Pitt men’s soccer team faced yet another ranked opponent on Friday night in No. 10 Virginia. The Panthers hung right with the Cavaliers all match long, but fell in the final minutes, losing 2-1 in double overtime.
The Panthers got behind 1-0 but an absolutely filthy goal by freshman Alexander Dexter tied the game in the second half 1-1. Ironically, Pitt had more chances early on but couldn’t capitalize. Dexter’s goal came after Virginia had mostly dominated the second half when he broke free, shaking a defender twice before placing the goal at the top of the net.
The Cavaliers continued dominating time of possession and, occasionally, the Panthers would bide their time and wait for a scoring opportunity. The biggest problem, it seemed, was not getting shots off when they were deep in Virginia’s zone.
Pitt held off Virginia with goalkeeper Mikal Outcalt making several key stops. He was under pressure much of the game and, as he’s done quite a bit this year, kept Pitt right in the thick of things.
Pitt sort of got a tough break when a rough foul and a subsequent scuffle earned both teams red cards. The Panthers could have actually had a man advantage as a Virginia defender was the offending party on the foul. He looked destined for a red card but the referee also handed forward Tim Epkomé a red card for his part. The replay seemed to show him involved but only verbally. A man advantage there could have been really big for Pitt.
Extra painful was that both of Virginia’s goals came late in the period. The scored with under six minutes left in the first half to take a 1-0 lead. Ironically, the Cavaliers player that scored, Raheem Taylor-Parkes, had checked into the game only 17 seconds earlier when another player left for injury. He slipped behind the defense and got an open look at the net. Taylor-Parkes was quick and gave the defense some trouble once he got into the game.
The second goal in double overtime was scored with only about 3 1⁄2 minutes left. The Panthers appeared poised to pick up a tie, which would have been a great result, playing a top ten team on the road. But it was another late goal that did them in as Jean-Christophe Koffi dribbled the ball past no fewer than three defenders in the middle of the field and fired a rocket into the goal for the win.
Afterward, head coach Jay Vidovich talked about the disappointment.
"I believe we deserved more from tonight's match," said head coach Jay Vidovich. "Our guys were warriors.”
The result was surely disappointing. But as Vidovich pointed out, the Panthers were right there and he feels his players will bounce back from this.
Pitt has had some late breakdowns defensively lately. In addition to tonight’s late goal, the Panthers also allowed one against Penn State a few games back as the Nittany Lions tied things up with only about 30 seconds left in regulation. Some of that, though, is the product of a really young team. The Panthers will get better in these situations over time and, overall, they played really well tonight against a team that is hoping to contend for a national championship.
Also, can’t say enough about Dexter. Edward Kizza, who has been spectacular this year, gets the bulk of the mentions when it comes to Pitt’s freshmen. But it’s Dexter that leads the team in goals with six and the goal he had tonight was unreal. He isn’t getting the credit that Kizza is but he’s arguably doing a little more. He leads the team in goals, game-winners (3), shots, and shots on goal as he’s aggressive around the net.
Again, Kizza has been phenomenal. But the team is also more than just him and that bodes really well for the future.
The Panthers are now 8-7 on the year and will face Akron on Tuesday. With only the Zips and Virginia Tech remaining on the schedule, a win Tuesday would guarantee the team a regular season over .500.