The No. 15 Pitt men’s soccer team took on No. 2 Clemson at Riggs Field in South Carolina on Saturday night, and the team entered the game as a clear underdog, as Pitt had gone 1-4 against Clemson since Jay Vidovich took control of the team in 2016. But the Panthers managed to beat the Tigers for the first time since 2018, shutting them out 2-0.
That outcome seemed unlikely early on in the matchup, as Pitt found itself on the defensive often in the first half. And as a result, Clemson recorded nine first-half shots to Pitt’s three as well as two corner kicks to Pitt’s one. However, the Tigers’ offensive efforts amounted to nothing, as they went into the halftime break in a scoreless tie with the Panthers.
Pitt’s fortunes would change in the second half, as the team got off six shots to Clemson’s four, and two of those shots would find the back of the net. The first came off the foot of Panthers midfielder Matt Bailey in the 58th minute, as he reeled off a shot from the corner of the box and tucked the ball just inside the right post.
First career goal ⚽ for Bailey, 18th career assist for Petkovic (that's 3rd all-time at Pitt!)— Pitt Men's Soccer (@Pitt_MSOC) September 26, 2021
- https://t.co/ekdFVIpVTK (ACCNX)#H2P pic.twitter.com/bRQffOiGvv
The second was a similar shot from the same vicinity that found its way into the goal the same way. The only difference was that the shot came from Panthers forward Bertin Jacquesson in the 68th minute, and he had the benefit of a wide-open net, as Clemson goalkeeper George Marks was off his line.
After Jacquesson’s goal, the last 22 minutes would run off the clock without a response from the Tigers, as they failed to put a shot on goal in the second half and let the Panthers escape with a 2-0 win.
The victory improved Pitt’s record to 5-3 and was just the latest strange chapter in a rollercoaster season for the team. To clarify, Pitt is now 2-1 against ranked teams with wins over No. 4 North Carolina and No. 2 Clemson and a loss to No. 19 Akron. The team has also lost to unranked West Virginia and Wake Forest and convincingly defeated in-state opponents Duquesne, Lehigh and Penn State.
In short, consistency has not been Pitt’s calling card in 2021, and it’s hard to tell what should be expected of the team moving forward and where it should rank in the United Soccer Coaches poll. But with Clemson in the rear-view, the schedule lightens up a bit, and the Panthers should get a chance to show what it can do against two non-conference opponents and a handful of ACC rivals that struggled in conference play last season.
First up will be Syracuse, a 4-4-1 team that was dealt a 1-0 loss by No. 6 Duke while Pitt was facing Clemson. Pitt is 2-1-1 against Syracuse under Vidovich and won the last matchup 3-2 in double overtime in Syracuse on Oct. 6, 2020. This time around, Pitt will have home-field advantage, as the match will take place at Ambrose Urbanic Field, and kickoff for the matchup is set for 7 p.m. ET on Friday.