FORT MYERS, Fla. – Sophomore goalkeeper Danny George made a career-high eight saves en route to earning his fifth shutout in the last six games Thursday night as the FGCU men’s soccer team (6-5-2, 4-0-1 Atlantic Sun Conference) played Mercer (3-10-1, 1-2-1 A-Sun) to a scoreless double-overtime tie to extend its unbeaten streak to seven in a row.
The tie snaps a stretch of six consecutive victories for the Green and Blue, who also had a run of 21 straight conference wins at home broken, but it still extended its unbeaten streak in such games to an emphatic 24 contests. FGCU has not lost an A-Sun game at the FGCU Soccer Complex in nearly five years – a staggering 1,824 days without a loss on home soil to a league foe, dating back to a 2-0 setback to Jacksonville on Oct. 19, 2008.
George’s fifth shutout – which is the fourth-most in a single season in program history – continued another impressive streak as the Eagles have now shut out their past seven A-Sun opponents at home during the regular season. The last A-Sun team to even score a goal at The Nest during the regular season was Jacksonville on Oct. 27, 2011.
As part of its now seven-game unbeaten streak, FGCU has only allowed one goal, which sets a program record for the fewest goals allowed over a six-match period. The Eagles add another point to their already league-leading total which now stands at 13 and four clear of ETSU and Lipscomb.
The game was a rematch of last season’s A-Sun Championship final, claimed by the Eagles in overtime, 1-0. Thursday’s tilt was just as even as Mercer out-shot FGCU by a small margin, 19-16, saves were 8-7 in favor of the Eagles and corner-kick opportunities were tied at 6-6 through 110 minutes of action.
“It was a typical league game in that it was very hard. They were in desperation mode and we were in a mode that we were pretty confident, but playing at home it was pretty difficult today,” head coach Bob Butehorn said. “It wasn’t our best effort, but in general it was a good game and I give credit to Mercer.”
The two teams played on relatively equal terms through the first 25 minutes of the contest before FGCU began to get the better of the play as it attempted four straight shots over a 13-minute span, including three in not even five minutes between minutes 27 and 32. Play began to open up even more late in the stanza as three corners – two by the Eagles and one by the Bears – were attempted in a three-minute session, but none resulted in any quality scoring opportunities.
Junior Santiago Echeverri (Kissimmee, Fla./Celebration HS) was extremely dangerous throughout the night, but particularly in the opening half hour as the forward fired off four shots in that span, culminating with a diving header effort which just missed being tucked inside the left netting in the 32nd minute.
The second half was a back-and-forth affair with each goalkeeper making several quality saves to keep their respective team in the match. The Eagles began to exert their force late in the stanza as they went almost every second from the 75th to the 80th minute with possession, resulting in a great, sinking left-footed shot by Xavier Silva (Boca Raton, Fla./North Broward Prep) that was stopped by a leaping effort from Mercer keeper Greg Ranjitsingh.
George (Safety Harbor, Fla./Countryside HS) made a diving effort of his own a few minutes later on one of the final chances of regulation, and for the first time since Oct. 7, 2011, the Eagles went to overtime of a regular-season conference home game – with that contest ironically enough also coming versus Mercer.
In OT, the Bears attempted three shots over the two, 10-minute sessions, forcing George into one stop as FGCU wrapped up its first scoreless regular-season tie since Sept. 12, 2010, versus Valparaiso. The game also marked the seventh overtime contest of the campaign, setting a program record and surpassing the six such matches from last year.
FGCU – which is receiving votes in this week’s NSCAA South Region Poll – is now 26-2-2 in regular-season A-Sun play since the beginning of the 2010 campaign. In that span, 90 possible points could have been earned, and FGCU has claimed 80 of them (88.8 percent). The Eagles’ 26 wins in four league seasons is second-most in A-Sun history behind the FGCU team from 2009-12, which won 28 games.
FGCU still has a chance to exceed that total, beginning with a match at Stetson next Saturday, Oct. 26. The Eagles will then play each of the following two Saturdays with its final home regular-season match to be contested at 7 p.m. on Nov. 2 versus Jacksonville.
2013-14 men’s soccer tickets are available by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, calling 239-590-7145 or logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets. Single-game tickets can be purchased for $6 per adult and $3 for youth. Groups of 10+ can receive a discounted rate of $3 per person. FGCU students and faculty/staff are admitted for free with a valid University ID.