LEXINGTON, Va. – The Liberty Flames extended their winning streak to four, downing the VMI Keydets, 3-2, in overtime in a Big South men’s soccer match, Tuesday afternoon at Patchin Field.
Midfielder Johnny Torres headed the ball into the right corner of the net at 93:57, off a crossing pass to the left post from forward Travis Joseph, sending the Flames to the victory. The golden goal was the first marker of the season for Torres.
Joseph also scored his first goal of the season and assisted on a goal by Kyle Breitmeyer during the contest.
Liberty moves to 4-1 in Big South play and 6-6 overall. VMI falls to 0-6-1 in conference action and 1-11-1 overall. Four of the last five meetings between the two Big South rivals have gone to overtime.
Visiting Liberty jumped out to an early 1-0 lead less than two minutes into the contest. Joseph took a long pass from defender Uriah Bentick on the right side of the field and fed the ball into the center of the 18-yard box for Breitmeyer. The forward took one dribble to the left and blasted an attempt into the lower left corner of the net for his sixth goal of the year at the 1:37 mark.
The advantage was short-lived. During the fifth minute, VMI midfielder Matt Seinfeld moved into open space at the left side of the box and sent a shot off the near post. Seinfeld controlled the rebound and scored his second goal of the year, tying the contest at 1-1.
Liberty controlled ball possession over the next six minutes. After a header of a crossing pass into the box by midfielder Blessing Tahuona during the seventh minute just sailed over the crossbar, Joseph gave the Flames a lead in the 12th minute. The senior forward stripped a defender near midfield and moved forward, ripping a shot from 20 yards out into the far side corner of the net for his first goal of the season and a 2-1 Flames lead.
A jumping save by Keydet goalkeeper Daniel Kitchen during the 24th minute kept the home team within one goal. Off a corner kick, Bentick fired a rising shot, which Kitchen extended out and popped over the goal to prevent Liberty from adding to its edge.
VMI countered in transition during the 35th minute. Midfielder Blake McCauley headed a lofted pass towards the left post, wide of the goal.
Liberty closed the half with a shot by midfielder Juan Niño during the 41st minute. Taking a feed into the center of the box, Niño pushed a shot over the net.
The Flames held a 10-4 advantage in shots and a 3-1 edge in corners during the opening 45 minutes of play.
After Breitmeyer pushed a shot attempt wide during the opening moments of the second half, Liberty goalkeeper Scott Sutarik was called upon to make a diving save on a Keydet attempt in the 48th minute. Forward Chase Barnett beat a Liberty defender to a goal kick and moved down the right side of the field, firing a shot from 20 yards out. Sutarik dove out and knocked the attempt away with his hand.
VMI knotted the game at 2-2 during the 52nd minute. McCauley netted his second goal of the year, scoring on a loose ball, which deflected off a Flames defender.
During the 66th minute, Liberty midfielder Sachem Wilson worked his way through several Keydet defenders for a shot from the top of the penalty area, forcing a save by VMI keeper Kitchen.
Two minutes later, Torres beat a defender and ripped a shot from 20 yards out, which Kitchen deflected over the goal for a save.
Liberty continued its pressure on the Keydet defense. During the 72nd minute, Torres moved into open space and ripped a shot from 20 yards out. Once again, Kitchen was there to make the stop.
Less than two minutes later, the Flames found space for Breitmeyer to launch a shot. However, his attempt was also corralled by Kitchen.
After a corner kick during the 86th minute, Breitmeyer put a shot from the left side of the box off the near post.
Regulation closed with Liberty sending a crossing pass into the center of the 18-yard box. But defender Sam Duininck’s header sailed just outside the right post, sending the contest to overtime.
In overtime, the Keydets got a free kick from 25 yards out during the 92nd minute, which the Flames cleared and moved up the field, pushing into the 18-yard box to set up the game-winner.
Liberty outshot VMI, 21-13, in the contest and held an 11-1 advantage in corner kicks.
Sutarik recorded three saves, while playing the entire contest for the Flames. Kitchen made eight stops for VMI in the match.
Liberty next travels to Rock Hill, S.C., for a Big South match against the Winthrop Eagles, Saturday. Match time is scheduled for 2 p.m.