TAMPA, Fla. – In a game that started nearly three hours after its scheduled kickoff and ended at 1:21 a.m. local time, the FGCU men’s soccer team and University of South Florida Bulls rewarded a country-wide audience that stayed up late as the two teams battled a 2-2 double-overtime tie in the NSCAATV National Game of the Week Friday.
Twice FGCU fought its way out of one-goal deficits in the season opener, with the first coming off the foot of defending Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year Filipe DeSousa (Tampa, Fla./Wharton HS). The Eagles’ second tally of the night – which actually was scored on Saturday morning – was fired into the top of the net by Santiago Echeverri (Kissimmee, Fla./Celebration HS) following a mini-scramble in front of the USF cage.
The game was delayed until a 10:53 p.m. start due to thunderstorms and a USF women’s soccer game which preceded the men’s contest and went to double-overtime as well. After waiting nearly three hours to get on the pitch, USF didn’t even wait three minutes to get on the scoreboard, tallying a goal just 2:05 into the rematch of last year’s NCAA Tournament First Round meeting.
However, in the 19th minute DeSousa fired a low, driven shot from about 25 yards out off a set piece. The sophomore tucked the ball into the left side of the net, starting his 2013 campaign exactly how he concluded his 2012 season. The native of Brazil now has eight career goals in just 16 games, tying him for fifth all-time in program history and moving him to 17 career points, which places him in sole possession of eighth on the all-time list.
The two teams played the rest of the first half in a frenetic, up-and-down pace indicative of a season’s first game. The natural grass surface – which had 220 minutes of action played on it over the course of evening after the storms – began to get torn up, making play more difficult in the second half.
But just as it did in the first half, USF – which has made six straight NCAA Tournament appearances – struck early in the second half, this time on a set piece not even five minutes into the stanza. FGCU goalkeeper Nathan Ingham (Ontario, Canada/Keswick HS) failed to clear the service as he punched the ball off the back of a USF forward, only to have Samuel Hosseini volley it into a waning net with his right foot.
Shortly after USF’s go-ahead tally, sophomore keeper Danny George (Safety Harbor, Fla./Countryside HS) replaced Ingham and played the final 52 minutes – the first action of his collegiate career.
After taking 16 minutes to respond to USF’s first goal with one of its own in the first half, FGCU had a rebuttal to the Bulls’ strike just 10 minutes later this time as Echeverri roofed his fourth career goal into an open net after USF attempted to clear the ball off its own goal line.
Over the final 30 minutes of regulation, the pace slowed slightly, but wasn’t without excitement as USF looked to have scored the game-winning goal in the 70th minute only to have it called back for being offside.
The Bulls – playing their first game as a member of the American Athletic Conference – had a quality opportunity to ink the game-winner early in the first, 10-minute overtime session, but George rejected the effort with a dive to his left.
After a relatively quiet first 15 minutes of OT, Xavier Silva (Boca Raton, Fla./North Broward Prep) woke up everyone with a blistering shot from long-range at the 105-minute mark which was ticketed for the upper-90 before USF keeper Dallas Jaye got a hand on it, deflecting it out for an FGCU corner. A few minutes later – following a second yellow card to Luis Vega (Guatemala City, Guatemala/Montverde Academy) – USF had what looked to be the final opportunity of the game as a free kick sailed just over the crossbar. However, with only 40 seconds left, Aaron Guillen (El Paso, Texas/Coronado HS) saved the game for the Eagles by clearing a shot off the FGCU goal-line after George had failed to corral a cross into the box.
The game was a rematch of last year’s NCAA Tournament First Round meeting, which also ended in a tie (0-0) before USF went on to claim a 5-3 victory in penalty kicks to advance to the Second Round. It also marked FGCU’s third consecutive non-conference road game – dating back to last year – that was played against the Bulls at USF’s Corbett Stadium.
FGCU returns to action next weekend as it opens the home portion of its 2013 docket against FIU on Saturday, Sept. 7. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. under the lights of the FGCU Soccer Complex, and will be one of just two home games for the defending A-Sun Tournament Champions in the month of September.
GAME NOTES: The game was scheduled to start at 8 p.m. … Ingham played every minute of every game last year … eight yellow cards were issued, six to FGCU and two to USF … Vega was given a red card after receiving two yellow cards, both of which occurred in overtime… George was credited with the tie … USF out-shot FGCU, 20-12 … USF was offside nine times compared with one for FGCU.
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.