In front of a record 3,042 fans the Florida Gulf Coast men's soccer team held its own against MLS' New York City FC in the club's preseason opener. The Eagles fell 1-0 to the professional side, without the presence of three key figures from its Atlantic Sun regular season championship winning side that have since began their own professional careers.
"It was one of the best moments in program history playing in front of 3,000 fans, playing with the likes of Pirlo, Lampard and Villa and with Patrick Vieira on the sideline; it doesn't get much better than that," said head coach Bob Butehorn. "I was really pleased with how well the guys played and I think they were too. They were surprised at the level we were able to play at especially with the group of seniors we lost at the end of last year."
In a match played in two-40 minute halves, the Eagles were put under early pressure when the visitors earned a corner six minutes into the match. Italian star Andrea Pirlo went to take the corner, but it was cleared away by an Eagle defense that would nearly hold NYCFC scoreless for the entire 80 minutes.
FGCU was not intimidated by the likes of Pirlo, David Villa and Frank Lampard as the Eagles nearly got on the board after just 10 minutes. Miguel Jaime (Denver, Colo./Cherry Creek HS) had FGCU's first opportunity, when the rising junior gathered the ball at the edge of the box and had his shot sail over the bar.
The Green and Blue would have the next opportunity at goal thanks to a Dylan Sacramento (Winnipeg, Manitoba/York University) shot that went wide of goal.
20 minutes into the first half, Sawyer Jackman (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles East HS) was called upon to make the first of multiple key saves, denying David Villa of putting NYCFC in front. Four minutes later, the rising sophomore kept Kwadwo Poku off the scoresheet.
35 minutes into the match, Jackman denied Villa once again but conceded a rebound only for the former Spanish National Team member to hit the post. Just one minute later, Poku hit the post as well.
FGCU's lone chance in the second half came in the 48th minute when Albert Ruiz (Barcelona, Spain/UE Cornella/CE L'Hospitalet) hit the post on a curled effort.
The visitors scored the lone goal in the 66th minute when RJ Allen found Patrick Mullins on the far post and the former Maryland striker slipped the ball in the net. Jackman was called upon to make one more save late in the match.
The 3,042 fans surpasses the previous record set at the NCAA Women's Soccer Tournament when FGCU played host to Auburn, which witnessed more than 2,500 fans.