JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – On the precipice of losing just its third Atlantic Sun Conference regular-season game in four years, the FGCU men’s soccer team (5-5-1, 3-0 A-Sun) received two goals in a 10-minute span from freshman Isaiah Madrid and junior Xavier Silva to extend its winning streak to five straight games with a crucial 2-1 overtime victory at ETSU (4-4-3, 2-1 A-Sun) on Friday night in a battle of the league’s top-two teams.
Madrid (Albuquerque, N.M./El Dorado HS) converted a penalty-kick goal in the 84th minute to tie the contest, and then Silva (Boca Raton, Fla./North Broward Prep) scored on a shot from nearly 30 yards out four minutes into the first overtime session to give the Eagles a stunning victory and propel them into sole possession of first place in the conference.
After one weekend of A-Sun action, the Eagles and Buccaneers were the lone unbeaten teams in the league, and through the first half of their match each looked the part. However, a 62nd-minute strike by ETSU – coupled with a defensive unit and goalkeeper who has the third-most shutouts in the nation – appeared it would be enough to snap the Eagles’ eight-game regular-season A-Sun winning streak.
However, Silva’s strike at the 93:45 mark extended the run, which dates back to a 3-1 setback at Lipscomb on Oct. 6 of last season. FGCU is now 25-2-2 in the regular season since the beginning of the 2010 campaign. In that span, 87 possible points could have been earned, and FGCU has claimed a staggering 77 of them (88.5 percent).
“It’s another great win for us in a tough place against a good team,” said head coach Bob Butehorn. “I felt the first half was one of better halves we’ve played all year. We controlled a majority of the 45 minutes and ended the half feeling we left something on the table.
“In the second half ETSU came out and made the game more direct and in their favor,” Butehorn continued. “They got a goal as a result a little bit of a mishap on our part, but after that we started to settle down and played well.”
The first half of the game was evenly matched, with each side attempting five shots. FGCU’s lone attempt on frame came off the foot of Santiago Echeverri (Kissimmee, Fla./Celebration HS), whose 38th-minute shot was saved by Ryan Coulter. The second half, however, started with ETSU getting the better of the play and attempting the first seven shots of the stanza – the final one which found the back of the net to give the Bucs a 1-0 advantage.
An ETSU challenge in the box on Will Suedois (Nice, France/Florida Virtual School) resulted in the penalty kick opportunity and opened the door for the Eagles to knot the contest. That’s exactly what Madrid did at the 83:38 mark as he calmly deposited his second goal of the campaign and became the first player besides redshirt junior Henry Panagos (Margate, Fla./American Heritage School of Boca) to tally a PK for the Eagles this year. Suedois had received the ball in a dangerous position in the box and as he started to turn his defender was grabbed down.
Madrid had a chance to ice the game in the final minute of regulation, but his header was saved Coulter, who entered as the league leader in shutouts with seven. Not only did FGCU not allow Coulter his eighth shutout of the campaign, but it became the first A-Sun team since Mercer on Sept. 30 of last year to score two goals on the reigning A-Sun Defender of the Week when Silva slotted his second goal of the season.
FGCU – which does not have a senior on its roster and has only one player who has ever played at ETSU before – controlled the early portions of the extra session, cornering the hosts in their own end of the field. After a ball sprung loose in the midfield from just inside 30 yards, Silva let loose a lazer into the upper-90 to Coulter’s right for his eighth career goal.
The second-half goal by ETSU broke a stretch of 362 consecutive minutes the Eagles’ backline and keeper Danny George (Safety Harbor, Fla./Countryside HS) had gone without allowing a goal. However, George made three saves and his defense aided his effort by making a stop of its own as the sophomore earned his fifth straight win between the pipes.
Combined with the FGCU’s women’s soccer and volleyball teams, the Eagles are now 12-1-2 in the A-Sun to start the year. Included in that mark is a dominant 14-game unbeaten streak as neither of the three programs has dropped a league contest since Sept. 20.
FGCU returns to action Sunday as it makes the trek to South Carolina to battle USC Upstate at 1 p.m. The Eagles have never lost to the Spartans, owning a 5-0-1 all-time record, including a 1-0 triumph last year. That lone tie – ironically enough – represents the last time FGCU failed to win an A-Sun game at home: Nov. 2, 2008. Since then, the Eagles have played 19 regular-season A-Sun games at the FGCU Soccer Complex, and they have won all 19.
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.