The top-ranked Pitt men’s soccer team faced No. 2 Clemson in the championship game of the ACC tournament Sunday in Cary, North Carolina. The contest was hard-fought, but the Panthers did not have enough left in the tank to pull out another win after a grueling week in the Tar Heel State and fell to the Tigers 2-1.
During the first half, Pitt appeared more out of sync than it had at any point this season. That was due in part to the absence of Jasper Löeffelsend, a key contributor on defense who also leads Pitt in assists, with six on the season. Löeffelsend left Pitt's 3-1 semifinal win over Notre Dame with an injury and was unavailable for Sunday's matchup.
As a result of Pitt’s uncharacteristically lackluster play, Clemson drew first blood. The Tigers scored the opening goal after Callum Johnson intercepted an errant pass by Pitt goalkeeper Nico Campuzano and sent the ball into the Pitt box for Mohamed Seye, whose shot whizzed by a diving Campuzano.
Clemson would maintain its 1-0 lead at the half, but Pitt evened the scoreline shortly after play began in the second frame. In a familiar scene, Jackson Walti sent a ball into the box for Valentin Noel, and Noel slotted a shot past Clemson goalkeeper George Marks. The goal was Noel’s eighth of the year, and it extended his goal streak to a program-best six games.
Unfortunately, the fire under Pitt seemed to go out shortly after Noel’s goal, and fatigue set in. That led to some lax defensive play that allowed a second Clemson goal to come in off a James Brighton header in the 71st minute, and things continued to unravel from there.
With 3:33 left to play and Pitt still down a goal, Clemson star Kimarni Smith went to the ground, prompting a review by ACC officials. They determined that Anass Amrani of Pitt had committed an act that warranted a red card, although that act was never clearly shown on the ESPN U broadcast. The red card also followed Smith taking a hack at Pitt’s Bertin Jacquesson that could have easily drawn a red card from more concerned officials. Instead, no card was issued, and play continued.
Pitt would ultimately allow Clemson’s second goal of the game to go unanswered, and the team suffered its first loss of the 2020 season as a result. With the 2-1 result in the books, the Tigers improve to 8-2-1 as the Panthers fall to 7-1-0 on the year, and the fall campaign comes to an unceremonious conclusion.