PHILADELPHIA – Sophomore Felipe DeSousa scored with less than a minute remaining in the first overtime session to propel the FGCU men’s soccer team (1-5-1) to its first victory of the season with a hard-fought 3-2 win in a physical encounter at the University of Pennsylvania (2-5-0) Friday evening.
DeSousa (Tampa, Fla./Wharton HS) tallied his team-leading fifth goal of the campaign and sixth game-winning strike of his young career at the 99:03 mark after Santiago Echeverri (Kissimmee, Fla./Celebration HS) issued a pass at the box to the Brazil native, who deked a couple of defenders to create some room and finished his shot low and inside the left post.
“It was a competitive match because of my ties to Penn and it was a big match for them as they’re getting ready to head into their conference schedule,” said head coach Bob Butehorn, who served as an assistant coach at Penn from 2001-05. “It’s a good win for us and the guys played well, so we’ll certainly take it."
Echeverri, who posted three points for the game, began his night by heading home his third goal of the season in the 32nd minute to give FGCU a 1-0 edge. Skylar Wilks (Tampa, Fla./Newsome HS) crossed the ball from the left flank in to Echeverri, whose header found its way just inside the right post.
“It was one of the best goals we’ve scored in a long, long time,” Butehorn surmised. “We strung together a lot of passes, build up the play up and then Skyler served a ball into Santi who rose up above everyone with his 5-3 frame and smacked it in.”
However, the Quakers responded not even five minutes later to even the match at 1-1, and that’s how the two teams entered the halftime break.
The Eagles then went back ahead in the early stages of the second half following a Penn foul as sophomore Luis Vega (Guatemala City, Guatemala, Montverde Academy) curved a perfect free kick inside the left post from just beyond the 18-yard box. The goal was the first of the defender’s career, and only the third shot he has attempted in his 16-game career.
But like they did following the Green and Blue’s initial goal, the Quakers had an answer – this time in the 68th minute to knot the contest back up, 2-2. Over the final 20 minutes the two teams battled, literally, as 10 fouls were called and two yellow cards were issued.
Penn had the first quality opportunity in OT, but its shot was blocked down by the Eagles, who then followed with two chances of their own as Isaiah Madrid (Albuquerque, N.M./ElDorado HS) and Xavier Silva (Boca Raton, Fla./North Broward Prep) fired shots that were saved and skied, respectively. DeSousa, who only logged 35 minutes of action all night, then sent his only shot of the contest into the back of the frame.
His strike not only gave FGCU a much-needed win as it begins another lengthy roadtrip, but also ties him atop the program’s all-time game-winning goals chart with 2011 graduate Christian Raudales. Now with 12 career goals, the sophomore is already tied for second in that category with 2011 grad Scott Harrison, and his 25 points are tied for sixth all-time.
The win snapped a six-match winless streak by the Eagles to open the season, and also marked the first victory in four tries for the club when going to overtime. The one-goal decision is the fifth of the year already for FGCU.
The game featured 29 fouls, seven yellow cards and one red card. The physical nature of the match was established from the outset as four fouls were called in the opening six minutes, and three cards were handed out before the third shot was attempted. Penn played with only 10 men from the 22:24 mark as Stephen Baker picked up a red card after receiving his first yellow not even four minutes earlier.
In net, sophomore Danny George (Safety Harbor, Fla./Countryside HS) got the start and made two saves en route to his first career win (1-3-1). For the game, FGCU out-shot Penn, 17-11, including a 9-4 disparity in shots on target.
“We’re still making some mistakes and we’re still a young team, but we know we have a solid group,” Buthern added of his roster which does not boast a senior. “We’re still dealing with some immaturity in spots of the game, but we’re starting to put together a full 90 minutes and we just need to continue that momentum and take it one game at a time.”
FGCU – which is in the midst of an 8,780-mile roadtrip – will now make a short trek to New Jersey to battle Princeton on Sunday in its third nationally-televised match of the season. Princeton (2-4-0) defeated FIU on Friday night, 4-2.
The game with the Tigers on marks the second consecutive weekend that the Eagles are on national TV as last week opposite now-No. 5 Washington they were showcased on the Pac-12 Network. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. on ESPNU, and like its appearance versus Penn, it will mark FGCU’s first-ever meeting with Princeton.
2013-14 men’s soccer season tickets are now available by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, calling 239-590-7145 or logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets. Season tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for youth (ages 3-12). Single-game tickets can also 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.