FORT MYERS, Fla. – Playing on its pitch for the first time since winning its second-straight Atlantic Sun Conference Championship last season, the FGCU men’s soccer team began the home portion of its 2013 schedule with a 4-3 loss Saturday night to FIU.
Trailing 4-1 with a little over 20 minutes remaining, Felipe DeSousa (Tampa, Fla./Wharton HS) scored twice over that span to pull FGCU within one, and an Aaron Guillen (El Paso, Texas/Coronado HS) shot with only 2:30 left rang off the post, but it wasn’t enough for the equalizer as the Panthers snapped FGCU’s 10-match unbeaten streak dating back to last year.
FIU took a 3-0 lead in the first half before the Eagles were able to get on the board in the final 15 seconds of the stanza in unorthodox fashion. FIU keeper Lawrence Craggs picked up the ball, dropped it down and then picked it back up in the box, resulting in a handball. Amidst the ensuing chaos, Jose Pablo Martin (Queretaro, Mexico/Briar Cliff University) set the ball for an indirect kick just in front of the goal line, and Isaiah Madrid (Albuquerque, N.M./El Dorado HS) tapped it into an empty net on a fast restart.
FIU went into the break with a 3-1 lead and added a fourth tally in the 68th minute before the Eagles started to mount their comeback. DeSousa’s first strike of the night came in the 69th minute off a corner as he accepted a pass near the top of the box and drove a low strike into the right side of the frame just after FIU’s goal.
His second of the evening came in eerily similar fashion as the Eagles’ first goal. Once again Craggs was in the middle of it as the referee decided the goalkeeper held the ball too long in the waning moments of the game and awarded a free kick to FGCU. Like in the first half, the Eagles took it quickly. This time it was Will Suedois (Miami Shores, Fla./Florida Virtual School) sliding a pass across the box to DeSousa, who sent his 10th career goal into the empty net in the 85th minute.
Minutes later, Guillen – who had moved up front from his backline in the closing minutes – drilled a left-footed shot off the left post from just inside the top of the box at the 87:30 mark, closing out the night’s chances for Eagles.
“We came up flat against an aggressive, young team and got down a couple of goals and couldn’t come back,” assistant coach Chris Gores said. “It was a tough game for us in our home opener.”
The loss snaps the aforementioned 10-game unbeaten streak, which was tied for a program record with the 2010 club. It also breaks a six-match winning streak at home and a seven-game unbeaten streak, dating back to the Green and Blue’s lone loss at the FGCU Soccer Complex to VCU last year, 2-1.
The Panthers scored two of their three first-half goals in opening 17 minutes – the first on a penalty kick following an FGCU tackle in the box and the second after Roberto Alterio beat the Eagles’ defense and fired a shot from the top of the box into the left netting, past the effort of starting keeper Danny George (Safety Harbor, Fla./Countryside HS). The Panthers added another goal from Alterio in the 34th minute as he tallied his second of the night in similar fashion as his first, low and driven into the left side of the frame.
Sophomore George made his first career start in net and was tested early as he stopped an FIU attempt right in front of the net only six minutes in. However, he was credited with the loss in making six saves.
The start of the game was delayed by lightning for 30 minutes until kickoff shortly after 7:30. For the contest, FGCU out-shot FIU, 19-14, and had more corners, 9-4, but the Panthers made the most of their nine shots on frame. Six yellow cards were issued: four to FIU and two to FGCU.
FGCU next travels for a mid-week tilt at Florida Atlantic University Wednesday night at 7. The Eagles return to The Nest on Saturday, Sept. 14, for a marquee showdown against Wisconsin at 8 p.m. The FGCU volleyball team hosts the current No. 1 team in the nation, Penn State, earlier in the evening, and fans who purchase a ticket to either that game or the men’s soccer game will be granted admission to both events as part of FGCU’s Big Ten Faceoff promotion.
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.