FORT MYERS, Fla. – Despite jumping out to a 2-0 lead not even 15 minutes into the match, the #11 FGCU men’s soccer team (10-3-1, 2-1-0 ASUN) had its nation-best 10-game winning streak snapped at the hands of North Florida (7-3-1, 3-0-0 ASUN) Tuesday night at the FGCU Soccer Complex, 3-2.
Albert Ruiz (Barcelona, Spain/ CE L’Hospitalet/UE Cornella) scored twice in the opening 13 minutes to extend his nation-leading goal total to 14 on the year, but the Ospreys – who now have a projected RPI of 29 following the win – responded with a goal in the 1st half and two in the 2nd half to hand FGCU its first home regular-season ASUN loss in nearly eight years.
UNF was able to do something most teams all year haven’t against the Eagles’ highest-scoring offense in the country. FGCU entered the match leading the nation in goals and points by a wide margin, but after the two early strikes were limited to a season-low eight shots.
The loss snapped a 29-game unbeaten streak (26-0-3) for FGCU at home in the regular season versus ASUN opponents, dating back to a 2-0 defeat against Jacksonville on Oct. 19, 2008 – the program’s second season.
“We learned a lot of lessons tonight, but I first need to tip my hat to North Florida. They came out with a good game plan and responded after being down two goals,” stated FGCU head coach Bob Butehorn. “We lost a lot of individual battles and didn’t have much control in the midfield. When we got the ball we were sloppy with it. We just didn’t perform the way we should have, and part of that is due to UNF, but hopefully we’ll learn from this and bounce back quickly.”
Ruiz opened the scoring just 18 seconds into the match. Arion Sobers-Assue (Miami, Fla./DeMatha Catholic HS) issued the first of his two assists on the evening as he played a ball into open space and toward the top of the 18. Ruiz ran on to it and fired a one-timed shot with his right foot into the right upper 90 to give the Green and Blue a 1-0 edge.
The lethal attacking duo teamed up once again less than 13 minutes later to provide the Eagles with a 2-0 lead. A ball played into the box from the left corner by Jiro Barriga Toyama (Chiba, Japan/Barton CC/Chibakennrituoihama HS) was deflected, but found its way to Sobers-Assue. With his back to the goal, Sobers-Assue played a ball down to Ruiz, who sent a left-footed shot from just inside the 18 again into the right upper 90.
After the blistering start by the Eagles, UNF settled in and trimmed its deficit to one in the 29th minute off a goal by Adrian Nunez. An initial shot from Cormac Begley was stopped by a diving effort from Sawyer Jackman (Chicago, Ill./St. Charles East HS), but the rebound found its way to Nunez, who trickled a shot into the far-right netting from a close angle.
The score remained 2-1 in favor of the Green and Blue into the 2nd half, but UNF’s consistent pressure finally paid off with a second goal of the evening from Nunez, who volleyed a right-footed shot inside the left netting in the 58th minute off a pass from Aiden D’Mello.
Just over six minutes later it was Nunez setting up the eventual game-winner as he played a ball inside the right side of the box where it was then sent into the back of the net by Mikey Connell.
Following the go-ahead goal by the Ospreys, the Eagles turned up the pressure and appeared they might have a potential penalty kick in the 79th minute when Ruiz looked to be taken down in the box by UNF keeper Juanes Fajardo, but no whistle came.
The Eagles – who attempted four of their eight shots for the game after UNF took the lead – maintained most of the possession the final 25 minutes, but couldn’t break through a tall and physical UNF midfield and defensive unit as the Ospreys moved to 3-0 in the ASUN after out-shooting the Eagles, 18-8, but being out-cornered, 8-3.
Despite the loss, Ruiz continued to add to his record-setting season as the junior striker now has one more goal than anyone else in the nation and has doubled the previous program single-season record of seven. He also added to his program career record for goals (22) and points (51) as he’s now the first player in FGCU history with more than 20 goals and 50 points.
North Florida – the defending ASUN Tournament Champion – was tabbed for a 2nd-place finish in the league’s preseason poll – just four points behind the Eagles – and with two 1st-place votes had the same as FGCU and Lipscomb.
The loss is just the fifth in all ASUN regular-season games since the start of the 2010 season (38-5-4) for FGCU, which has claimed an unprecedented six-straight ASUN regular-season titles.
FGCU will look to bounce back when it concludes its four-game homestand with Senior Night on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. against USC Upstate. The home regular-season finale against the Spartans (3-8-0, 1-3-0 ASUN) will be FGCU’s third-to-last match of the regular season as the Eagles will head to Jacksonville for their makeup game on Tuesday, Oct. 25, before concluding the year at Lipscomb on Saturday, Oct. 29.
Single-game tickets are available for all remaining home games. More information, including special discounts and group rates, can be accessed by visiting FGCUTickets.com. To purchase tickets, or for additional inquiries, call the FGCU Ticket Office at 239-590-7145 Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. or log on to FGCUTickets.com.
For up-to-the minute information and a behind-the-scenes look at the FGCU men’s soccer program, follow on Twitter @FGCU_MSoccer, Instagram @FGCU_MSoccer, Facebook /FGCUMSoccer and YouTube /FGCUAthletics.
FGCU is led by Bob Butehorn, who has coached six professional players and 54 ASUN All-Conference selections since FGCU started its program in 2007. In just five years of postseason eligibility, Butehorn has guided FGCU to three ASUN Tournament championships and NCAA Tournament appearances – in 2011, 2012 and 2014 – and has won an unprecedented six-straight ASUN regular-season championships. His teams have been ranked nationally on several occasions by multiple media outlets. Now in his 14th season as a head coach, Butehorn has a 125-93-26 (.566) overall record, 91-61-22 (.586) mark in his 10th season at FGCU and 50-18-6 (.716) record in ASUN contests.
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