CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Behind goals from junior defenders Mahamoudou Kaba and Braeden Troyer, South Carolina (3-4-2, 1-0-0 C-USA) defeated Charlotte (4-3-1, 0-1-1 C-USA) 2-1 on the road in its Conference USA opener.
“It’s a great tribute to our guys. Once again, we come in at half time, make some adjustments and come roaring back. This time we come from behind on the road against a very good Charlotte team to get three big conference points. I couldn’t be more proud. It’s huge, and the fact that it’s a conference win, is even bigger,” South Carolina head coach Mark Berson said of his team’s win.
Charlotte held 23-6 advantage in shots, but the Gamecocks put five of their six chances on frame. Midfielder Ryan Arambula led the Gamecocks with three shots. Charlotte senior midfielder Aidan Kirkbride had six shots and scored to lead Charlotte. The 49ers also had a 12-1 upperhand in corner kicks.
Freshman goalkeeper Marco Velez collected the first win of his South Carolina career, collecting seven saves on the night. Between the posts for Charlotte, redshirt senior Klay Davis posted three saves.
Charlotte was aggressive early. On their first corner opportunity of the match, junior defender David Mayer sent the ball into the box and senior defender Thomas Allen sent a header towards goal. Troyer was there to hold the line and deflected the ball wide. The deflection gave the 49ers another quick corner chance. This time, Mayer sent a dangerous ball in the box and sophomore forward Kyle Parker put a header on frame. Freshman midfielder Kurtis Turner was in goal and headed the ball out to keep the game scoreless.
In the 27th minute, Charlotte made the best of a corner kick opportunity. Mayer again sent the ball into the box, but Troyer was there to clear the clear the ball. Kirkbride was able to get a handle on the rebound and sent a long-range shot from 25 yards out past Velez for the 1-0 lead.
Trying to level the match, the Gamecocks registered two quick shots from Arambula and sophomore midfielder Jeffrey Torda, but neither was on frame.
On a free kick after a foul on the Gamecocks, Kirkbride nearly scored again. The ball was deflected and Charlotte was awarded another corner kick. Parker tried to flick a shot to the back of the net, but Velez was there to collect the save.
At the half, Charlotte held a 10-2 advantage in shots and a 5-0 upperhand in corner kicks.
After a Charlotte foul in the 52nd minute, Arambula restarted play, flicking the ball deep into the box. Kaba got off a shot that went over the keeper’s head. The tally leveled the match at 1-1.
On their ninth corner kick of the night, Charlotte nearly scored the go-ahead goal in the 77th minute. With the ball deep in the box, a pack of Gamecock defenders was able to stifle the attack.
In the 80th minute, Arambula drove a free kick in, but Davis punched the ball out of bounds. The Gamecocks were awarded their first corner kick of the night on the play, which the 49ers cleared the ball out of the box. Troyer picked up the rebound and fired a shot from 25 yards out to give South Carolina the 2-1 lead.
Just two minutes later, junior forward Monbo Bokar had a chance to equalize for the 49ers from six yards out. The shot sailed just wide, preserving the Gamecock lead.
In the 86th minute, Charlotte again looked to tie the match, this time on a header by freshman midfielder Brandt Bronico. The play was an easy save for Velez.
On a late free kick from 20 yards out after a South Carolina foul, Kirkbride restarted play. The wall of Gamecock defenders blocked the shot and South Carolina was able to hold on for the 2-1 win.
The Gamecocks step out of C-USA play as they return to Stone Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 1, to face Presbyterian at 7 p.m. South Carolina returns to conference play against Tulsa on Sunday, Oct. 6.