The No. 5 Pitt men’s soccer team faced Wake Forest at W. Dennie Spry Soccer Stadium in Winston-Salem on Friday night and was dealt a 3-1 loss. The outcome was just the latest disappointment in an up-and-down season for the Panthers, who no longer seem to be the same offensive threat they once were.
Wake Forest went on the offensive early and forced two saves from Panthers goalkeeper Nico Campuzano, and the hosts eventually broke through and scored the first goal of the game in the 16th minute. The first goal came off the foot of Demon Deacons forward Kyle Holcomb, who collected a ball deflected by Campuzano and scored from close range.
Pitt would respond to the goal three minutes later, when Panthers midfielder Rodrigo Almeida put a shot on target, but it would be saved. And in the 24th minute, Demon Deacons defender Garrison Tubbs would put his team up 2-0, putting away a cross with a header. And that would remain the score at halftime.
After a first half in which both teams reeled off six shots, the second half would play out similarly, with Pitt and Wake Forest each recording seven. However, the first of those shots to find the back of the net came off the foot of Demon Deacons midfielder Chase Oliver in the 69th minute, effectively putting the game out of reach for Pitt. And while Panthers midfielder Veljko Petkovic would score in the 80th minute, it would prove to be Pitt’s last stand in a disheartening 3-1 defeat.
The loss dropped Pitt to 4-3 on the season and 1-1 in the ACC, and that could prove to be a problem for the Panthers, as they are now the only team in the top 25 with three losses. As a result of the loss, which did not reward United Soccer Coaches poll voters for their faith in the team after previous defeats, Pitt could see a major drop from its spot in the top five.
The loss also saw the continuation of a problematic trend for Pitt, which has struggled to produce in the attacking third at anywhere near the same rate it did last year.
Through seven games this season, Pitt is averaging a pedestrian 2.4 goals per game, and that figure is buoyed by an early 7-0 rout of Duquesne. But since that game, Pitt has lost its appetite in the attacking third and been held to one goal four times, resulting in a worrisome average of 1.6 goals per game over its last six games. And these trends compare poorly to last season, when the team averaged 3.1 goals per game through its first seven games.
Pitt will look to right the ship next week, when it heads down to South Carolina to face Clemson. However, like Wake Forest, Clemson has proven time after time that it has Pitt’s number, and last season, the Tigers dealt the Panthers two of their four losses. That game between Pitt and Clemson will kick off from Riggs Field next Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.