FORT MYERS, Fla. – On the strength of goals from Santiago Echeverri and Aaron Guillen and another shutout from Danny George, the FGCU men’s soccer team (7-6-2, 5-1-1 Atlantic Sun Conference) completed its fifth straight unbeaten A-Sun regular-season home schedule with a 2-0 victory over Jacksonville (4-10-1, 2-4-0 A-Sun) Saturday night at the FGCU Soccer Complex.
With the win, the Eagles earn the right to host the A-Sun Championship Nov. 15-17 for the second-consecutive year. The triumph also gives the Green and Blue at least a share of the regular-season title for the fourth season in a row.
FGCU can win the crown outright with at least a tie next Saturday at North Florida in the final game of the regular season. The Eagles are currently tied with ETSU at the top of the league ledger with 16 points, however the Buccaneers have completed A-Sun play. Northern Kentucky and Lipscomb each have 13 points with one game remaining, but FGCU has defeated both of those clubs along with ETSU so it earns the tiebreaker and the right to host the tournament.
The victory over Jacksonville extended FGCU’s impressive stretch of A-Sun action in The Nest as the Eagles have now gone unbeaten in 25 straight matches against league members. That stretch spans more than five years and 1,839 days. Ironically enough, the last A-Sun team to claim a victory at The Nest was Jacksonville on Oct. 19, 2008, by the score of 2-0.
After beginning the match with eight straight shot attempts, FGCU’s ninth found the back of the net as Echeverri (Kissimmee, Fla./Celebration HS) buried his fourth goal of the campaign in the 35th minute. The play began with Will Suedois (Nice, France/Florida Virtual School) carrying the ball up the right flank before delivering a cross onto the left post where Echeverri one-touched it past JU goalkeeper Gavin Carlin.
The Green and Blue ended the first half with a 9-0 shot advantage and extended that to 12-0 before the Dolphins finally had their first shot attempt in the 64th minute stopped by George. The shot was the first of three in the row rattled off by Jacksonville before FGCU tilted the pitch back in its favor, culminating with defender Guillen’s (El Paso, Texas/Coronado HS) first career goal.
Freshman Isaiah Madrid (Albuquerque, N.M./El Dorado HS) played a short corner to central midfielder David Robledo (Dallas, Texas/Hillcrest HS), who lived up to his nickname by chipping a ball over the JU backline and onto the head of Guillen who redirected just his seventh shot of the year into the net.
“I just think it was a good overall performance,” head coach Bob Butehorn said. “We made some adjustments this week in the way we competed and the way we played. I think the guys came out and played very well; it was just a good effort. I’m very pleased and looking forward to next week.”
George (Safety Harbor, Fla./Countryside HS) didn’t begin the year as the Eagles’ starting keeper, but has emerged as one of the best in the league behind a now-stout defense as he earned his conference-leading fifth shutout in A-Sun games and sixth on the year. George, who was officially reclassified this week from a sophomore to a redshirt freshman following NCAA approval, needed to make just two saves.
The FGCU defense, anchored by several underclassmen including sophomore Luis Vega (Guatemala City, Guatemala/Montverde Academy), has allowed only three goals in seven conference games – a stark contrast during the most important time of the season after allowing 21 goals in its eight non-conference matches.
FGCU moves its A-Sun regular-season record to an amazing 27-3-2 since the start of the 2010 season. All three of its conference losses have come on the road, and out of a possible 96 points that could have been earned in that time, the Eagles have claimed an astonishing 83 of them (86.4 percent).
The Eagles wrap up regular-season action next Saturday, Nov. 9, at UNF. With a win or a tie, FGCU will claim its fourth-straight regular-season championship and in the process become the first team in A-Sun history to achieve such a feat. A point also helps keep FGCU alive for the opportunity to win the league’s regular-season and postseason championship in men’s and women’s soccer for the third year in a row. FGCU is the only school in the nation that can boast that current distinction for the past two seasons.
Additional information regarding the A-Sun Championship will be announced next week following the completion of the regular season. Fans can also log on to AtlanticSun.org/MSoccer for championship details. Both semifinal games will be shown on ASun.TV with the final match to air on ESPN3.