JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Despite an inauspicious start in which it surrendered an own goal just 16 seconds into the game, the FGCU men’s soccer team (2-4-3, 1-0-0 Atlantic Sun Conference) regrouped nicely, and on the strength of a dominant second half and freshman Arion Sobers-Assue’s game-winning goal opened league play with a 3-1 win at Jacksonville University (3-6-0, 0-1-0 A-Sun) Wednesday evening.
The four-time defending A-Sun regular-season champions looked anything but that right off the opening kick as a miscue in the backline put the Eagles at an immediate deficit. However, in the 22nd minute, Miguel Jaime (Greenwood Village, Colo./Cherry Creek HS) assisted on a blistering shot from junior Felipe DeSousa (Tampa, Fla./Wharton HS) to tie the contest, and then in the 68th minute Sobers-Assue (Miami, Fla./DeMatha Catholic HS) tallied his first career goal following a pass over the top from David Robledo (Dallas, Texas/Hillcrest HS). Henry Penagos (Margate, Fla./American Heritage School of Boca/Delray) – making just his second start of the year – added the insurance strike just four minutes later following two great thru balls from Sobers-Assue and junior Steven Oliveri (Stuart, Fla./Jensen Beach HS).
“I was really proud of how our guys responded; no one put their head down and we continued to grind,” said head coach Bob Butehorn of the early disadvantage his team faced. “We’ve been creating enough chances, and I’m just happy that we were able to finally capitalize on those tonight. We stuck some guys in there that were able to break down the Jacksonville defense and create some pretty nice goals. We talked a lot about how our non-conference schedule had prepared us for the start of the A-Sun season, and that was certainly the case tonight.”
On FGCU’s first goal, Jaime won the ball deep in Jacksonville’s end, but the freshman had his back to the net before deftly touching the ball with the outside of his left foot to turn back toward the net and simultaneously split two JU defenders. The midfielder then took a couple more touches before pushing a pass from near the top of the left corner of the box to DeSousa, who had stayed onside. From there, the lethal striker took one touch and fired a low shot with his right foot inside the left netting from just beyond the corner of the six-yard box.
Using the momentum from DeSousa’s fourth goal of the season, the co-preseason league favorites settled in and eventually took a 9-3 shot edge to the halftime locker room. Butehorn started in a 4-3-3 formation, with Penagos, DeSousa and Santiago Echeverri (Medellin, Colombia/Celebration HS) up front – three of FGCU’s four point leaders from last year. That aggressive move paid off as DeSousa (four) and Echeverri (three) were responsible for 78 percent of those first-half shots.
The Eagles played their standard possession-based offense to near perfection early in the second half, but didn’t have a great chance until Sobers-Assue played a ball across the front of the frame and just out of the reach of Penagos on the back post in the 65th minute. Just minutes later, however, Sobers-Assue got his chance after Xavier Silva (Boca Raton, Fla./North Broward Preparatory School) played a ball back to Robledo. The central midfielder then sent a ball down the middle of the pitch and over the JU defenders, perfectly on to Sobers-Assue’s foot. The freshman did the rest as he simply lifted the ball with his right foot over Jacksonville keeper Marc Meny, who was standing about three yards off his line.
The final strike of the night was perhaps FGCU’s best-executed of the contest as Sobers-Assue gained possession near midfield and played a ball up the right sideline for Oliveri. From there, Oliveri wasted little time in perfectly playing a curving ball on the ground into space for a cutting Penagos, who one-timed his first goal of the season off the far post.
The three Green and Blue goals represent a season high as FGCU had scored just four total goals entering the contest. The Eagles broke out of their offensive slump against one of the league’s hottest defensive teams as Jacksonville had not allowed a goal in 184 minutes coming into the game, and Meny was named the A-Sun Defensive Player of the Week Monday after two shutouts last week.
Dating back to the start of the 2010 conference season, FGCU is now 29-3-2 in A-Sun regular-season games. All three of its conference losses have come on the road, and out of a possible 102 points that could have been earned in that time, the Eagles have claimed an impressive 89 of them.
FGCU finished with a 19-8 shot advantage, including an 8-5 edge with shots on target. Goalkeeper Nathan Ingham (Keswick, Ontario/Keswick HS) made four saves as the redshirt junior’s .812 save percentage entering the game easily led the conference (no one else was even at .730).
The JU goal came after the Dolphins sent a diagonal ball deep into the FGCU end where left back Skylar Wilks (Tampa, Fla./Newsome HS) appeared to have it comfortably under control. The steady senior attempted to head the ball back to Ingham, but the combination of a poor effort and awkward spin resulted in the ball trickling over the goal line for what is now the fastest goal allowed in FGCU program history.
The own goal was actually the second straight conceded by FGCU in A-Sun regular-season action as the Eagles gave one up in their regular-season finale – also in Jacksonville – last November against the University of North Florida.
Jacksonville welcomed FGCU to the A-Sun in 2007 by handing the Eagles three losses in their first three meetings, outscoring them 9-1 along the way. FGCU has now completely reversed the script as the Eagles have defeated Jacksonville in five consecutive matches to improve their all-time record against the Dolphins to 5-3. In those five meetings – dating back to 2010 – FGCU has out-scored Jacksonville, 14-4.
FGCU will have a quick turnaround as the Eagles return home to face Stetson on Saturday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. for their home A-Sun opener. The Hatters are 3-4-2 on the year, but opened A-Sun play last Saturday at home with a dominant 6-0 victory over UNF.
GAME NOTES: DeSousa now has 17 career goals, two shy of matching the program record of 19 held by Cristian Raudales … the previous record for quickest goal allowed by FGCU was 1:50 as Lipscomb’s Miguel DaSilva struck in 2007 … Jacksonsville was issued five yellow cards while the Eagles did not receive any … FGCU, Lipscomb and Stetson are all 1-0-0 in league play and tied for 1st place with 3 points.
For men’s soccer ticket information, visit the Alico Arena Ticket Office, call 239-590-7145 or log on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets. For up-to-the minute information and a behind-the-scenes look at the program, follow on Twitter @FGCU_MSoccer and Instagram @FGCU_MSoccer.
FGCU is led by Bob Butehorn, who has coached 30 A-Sun All-Conference selections since FGCU started its program in 2007. In just three years of postseason eligibility, Butehorn has guided FGCU to the NCAA Tournament twice – in 2011 and 2012 – and has won an unprecedented four-straight A-Sun regular-season championships. His teams have been ranked nationally on several occasions by multiple media outlets, and in 2013 he won his 100th career game.