In 2019, the Pitt men’s soccer team emerged as a contender that could hang with the best programs in the nation under Jay Vidovich. And as a result, Pitt will start the 2020 season ranked as the No. 4 team in the country in the United Soccer Coaches poll.
The early-season ranking was released on Tuesday and only consists of five teams. Notably, all five of those teams are from the ACC. Pitt is wedged between No. 3 Virginia and No. 5 Notre Dame in a national top five that also includes Wake Forest at No. 1 and Clemson at No. 2. Notre Dame is the only ranked team that has played a game this season, but Pitt put on a solid showing in its two exhibition matches last week.
In Pitt’s exhibition against Louisville, which took place at Ambrose Urbanic Field, the Panthers shut out the Cardinals 5-0 and got contributions from a variety of players. In total, four different players scored five goals and four players recorded four assists. Edward Kizza got the opening goal for Pitt, and Alexander Dexter followed that up with back-to-back scores of his own. All told, the two attackers furnished Pitt with a 3-0 advantage in a span of roughly five minutes, allowing the team to cruise comfortably to victory.
Kizza and Dexter powered the Pitt offense during the team’s 10-win campaign in 2019. Kizza led the team with 12 goals and chipped in four assists, while Dexter posted a team-high six assists and scored three times. And heading into the 2020 season, it seems that Kizza and Dexter have not lost a step.
The duo also got plenty of help from Veljko Petkovic, who ranked second on the team in points, as he had 17 on six goals and five assists last season. Petkovic also looks poised to play a key role once more, as the Serbian midfielder assisted Dexter on his first goal and later scored one of his own against the Cardinals, thanks to an assist from Filip Mirkovic in the 69th minute of the game.
Prior to the preseason matchup with Louisville, Pitt faced Wake Forest, which is now the No. 1 team in the nation, in an exhibition match and almost came away with a win. Down 2-0, the Panthers evened the score on goals from Kizza and Dexter in the second half. However, Wake Forest pulled ahead for a 3-2 victory in the 80th minute. And while Pitt performed admirably against the Demon Deacons, perhaps the best thing about the game is that it will not be followed by a rematch in the regular season.
All things considered, Pitt appears to be set for another strong campaign in 2020, but the team will be tested immediately, as the Panthers will travel to South Bend to take on No. 5 Notre Dame in their season opener. The Panthers will also have to take on Virginia, the No. 3 team in the nation, on Oct. 16 but currently have no other dates with ranked teams looming.