LEXINGTON, VA. - Despite strong play in the second half, the Liberty Flames could not overcome two early goals by Marshall, as the Thundering Herd defeated the Flames, 2-0, Friday afternoon in the first game of the 2012 Sculley Memorial Tournament at VMI’s Patchin Field.
Liberty falls to 1-2 on the season. Marshall moves to 3-0-1 on the year. It was the second time that the Flames and Thundering Herd have met in the opening game of the tournament, which honors VMI’s first men’s soccer head coach Jay Sculley. Liberty and Marshall tied, 1-1, in that contest on Sept. 10, 2010.
After the Thundering Herd pushed the ball into the Liberty 18-yard box to open the game without a scoring attempt, the Flames fired the first shot of the contest during the third minute. In transition, midfielder Johnny Torres worked free for a blast from 25 yards in the center of the field, which went wide of the far post.
Less than two minutes later, Marshall jumped on the scoreboard with its first goal of the contest. Midfielder Anthony Viraga dribbled deep into the left side of the 18-yard box and dropped a past to the far post for forward Eddie Prugh. The forward put the ball into the open net for his second goal of the season and a 1-0 Thundering Herd lead.
During the seventh minute, Liberty looked for the equalizer. Forward Kyle Breitmeyer took a long pass over several Herd defenders for a shot, which he pushed high.
With the game continuing as at a fast rate of play, the two teams exchanged shot attempts, forcing a save by both goalkeepers shortly after the 11th minute mark. Marshall’s leading scorer, forward Tom Jackson, worked free in front of the goal during the 12th minute, only to have his shot stopped by Liberty goalkeeper Scott Sutarik.
A minute later, Flames midfielder Juan Nino ripped a shot from the left side of the field, which Herd goalkeeper Daniel Withrow snatched away for a save.
Marshall upped its lead to 2-0 during the 20th minute. After an initial stop off a crossing pass by Sutarik, the ball came free for Virgara, who tapped it into the net for his first goal of the year.
After the marker, ball possession by each team fell mainly between the 18-yard boxes. During the span, the only shot came off the foot of Liberty’s Nino, which Withrow stopped.
Marshall closed the half with a header by midfielder Peter Bulat during the final minute. Sutarik was in position to corral it, keeping the Flames’ deficit at two at halftime.
The Thundering Herd held a 5-4 edge in shots during the first half, with corner kicks even at 2-2.
The second half opened with Marshall on the attack, looking to extend its advantage. After a long shot by forward Devin Perkins in the 50th minute, the Thundering Herd forced a save by Sutarik off a header in front by Perkins two minutes later.
In the 64th minute, Liberty’s pressure on the attack began to create opportunities. Off a loose ball into the middle of the box, Breitmeyer lifted an attempt, which got behind Herd goalkeeper Withrow. However, defender Travis Bent ranged back and was able keep the ball from going into the net, preventing the Flames for scoring.
Holding on to possession of the ball, Liberty followed Breitmeyer’s attempt by sending a crossing pass from the left side of the field into the 18-yard box less than 30 seconds later. Forward Tyler Bullock headed the ball for the near post, forcing a fingertip, diving save by Withrow.
The Flames continued to pressure the Thundering Herd net. In the 71st minute, Liberty moved defender Greg White into the open space for an attempt from 20 yards out, which sailed high. Five minutes later, forward Clyde Glastetter lifted a shot from the top of the box high.
During the 83rd minute with Liberty pushing players forward, the Flames produced two corner kick opportunities. However, Liberty did not generate a shot opportunity off either kick.
The Marshall defense did not allow any more shot attempts by Liberty during the closing minutes, as the Thundering Herd went on to win, 2-0.
Shots in the contest were even at 11 apiece. Corner kicks were also even at five each.
Sutarik made four saves for the Flames, while Whitlock recorded three saves. In four games this season, Marshall has not allowed a goal.
Liberty will next play the George Washington Colonels in the third game of the Sculley Memorial Tournament, Sunday. Match time at VMI’s Patchin Field is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.