JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Trailing 1-0 into the 2nd half, the #15 FGCU men’s soccer team (12-3-1, 4-1-0 ASUN) again used the nation’s most potent offense to battle back and claim a crucial 2-1 league win at Jacksonville (5-9-0, 1-4-0 ASUN) Tuesday night.
Albert Ruiz recorded his nation-leading 17th goal to tie the match in the 66th minute, and in the 83rd minute Shak Adams delivered his third game-winning goal in the last five FGCU victories to provide the Eagles with a crucial 3 points heading into the regular-season finale Saturday at Lipscomb (3-2-0- ASUN, 9 Points).
The win moves FGCU into a tie atop the ASUN standings with North Florida at 12 points each. The Ospreys (4-0-0 ASUN), who defeated the Eagles last week, will host NJIT (3-2-0 ASUN, 9 Points) on Wednesday at 1 p.m. in a make-up game from an earlier postponement – like FGCU at JU – because of Hurricane Matthew earlier this month.
FGCU has now won seven in a row over Jacksonville, but had to fight back to do so Tuesday night. However, after the Eagles allowed JU to jump ahead in the 25th minute on a Diego Sanchez goal, they completely flipped the field and their nation-leading offense took over. Following the opening strike by the Dolphins, FGCU attempted 14 of the game’s final 16 shots and applied constant pressure.
“Our guys were really tired, and I’m extremely proud of them to get this result,” commented head coach Bob Butehorn, whose team had to play at home Saturday night before making the six-hour ride to Jacksonville Monday. “After they took the lead, we really had a lot of chances that for the most part we’ve been finishing. But it was just one of those nights where they didn’t go in as often as they had most of the year. We made some substitutions to help with the fatigue, and to the credit of the guys coming off the bench they responded. It was great to once again see our depth on display.”
Adams (Antioch, Tenn./Cane Ridge HS) – like he has been all year – was one of those 2nd-half subs who made a profound impact. Dylan Sacramento (Winnipeg, Manitoba/York University/Bill Crothers S.S.) – who entered the match after the JU goal – stole the ball near the top of the Dolphins’ 18 and sent it to Adams, who swiftly struck his fourth goal of the year to seal the Eagles’ win.
FGCU wouldn’t have had a chance to get there without Ruiz’s (Barcelona, Spain/ CE L’Hospitalet/UE Cornella) equalizer earlier in the stanza. Jiro Barriga Toyama (Chiba, Japan/Barton CC/Chibakennrituoihama HS) started the play – and ultimately got credit for the assist – as he made a run up the flank and ripped a shot off the inside post. The ball careened to Ruiz, and the lethal striker sent a one-timed delivery from about 8 yards into the back of the net.
The goal moved Ruiz one clear of Marist’s Cameron Harr for the most in the nation. With the exception of Harr, Ruiz has four more goals than anyone else in the country. Furthermore, his 17 goals are now more than 71 teams have this season.
The Eagles finished the match with a dominant 15-5 edge in shots, forcing JU keeper Patrick Harding into five saves. On the FGCU side, Jared Brown (Aurora, Ontario/St. Maximilian Kolbe CHS) made his second-straight start in net and finished with two saves.
The win was the 12th of the year for FGCU, one shy of matching the single-season program record of 13 by the 2010 team. That squad finished 13-3-2 in the final year in which FGCU was ineligible for the postseason as it went through its Division-I transition.
The triumph also extended FGCU’s dominant record to 40-5-4 in all ASUN regular-season games since the start of the 2010 season. Out of a possible 147 points that could have been earned in that time, the Green and Blue have claimed an impressive 124 of them (84.4 percent).
FGCU entered the match ranked #15 in the nation in the highly-respected College Soccer News National Top 25 Poll. With another mini-offensive outburst, the Eagles – who are ranked #20 in the NSCAA Top 25 Poll – extended their wide national lead in goals (51, next closest: 38) and points (142, next closest: 112). The goal and point totals have far surpassed the previous single-season program records of 35 and 108, respectively.
That offensive unit will look to close out the regular season on a high note when it travels to Nashville this weekend in search of its 7th-straight league regular-season title. The Green and Blue and Lipscomb are set to battle at 8 p.m. Eastern (7 Central). The Bison (9-5-1 overall) have won four in a row following a 2-1 win at Evansville Tuesday night.
With a win over Lipscomb, FGCU will assure itself of at least the No. 2 seed in the ASUN Tournament, which starts next week. As the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, the Eagles would host a quarterfinal match between lower seeds on Nov. 3 and then play that winner at the FGCU Soccer Complex on Nov. 5 due to the FGCU women’s program hosting the ASUN Tournament (previously scheduled for Nov. 4 and 6).
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 127-93-26 (.569) overall record, 93-61-22 (.591) mark in his 10th season at FGCU and 52-18-6 (.724) record in ASUN contests.
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FGCU Athletics sponsors events throughout the year to benefit the FGCU Campus Food Pantry (www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry) and the Harry Chapin Food Bank (www.harrychapinfoodbank.org), FGCU Athletics’ charities of choice. For more information, including how to make a contribution, please visit www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry and utilize the hashtag #FeedFGCU to help raise awareness.