FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU men’s soccer team (1-3-2) battled No. 8 Washington (5-1-0) all night, but a Huskies’ goal in the 85th minute gave the visitors a 1-0 win Thursday in front of 1,006 spectators at the FGCU Soccer Complex.
Washington – the second-highest ranked opponent FGCU has ever hosted – netted its goal in an unsettled situation following a corner kick. FGCU thwarted the initial cross, but the clearance found the foot of Justin Schmidt near the right corner of the box. With FGCU trying to re-mark the Huskies’ attackers, Schmidt played a ball over the top to Mason Robertson who was alone near the back post and one-timed his fourth goal of the season past goalkeeper Nathan Ingham (Keswick, Ontario/Keswick HS), who had an otherwise brilliant performance.
Both teams finished with 14 shots each, but while FGCU put four on target Washington placed 10 on frame, forcing Ingham to make a career-high nine saves. The nine saves are tied for the second-most in FGCU single-game history as Adam Glick made nine stops twice during the 2011 season, with one of those occasions coming against Washington.
The Huskies started fast at the beginning of the first half and second half, but FGCU eventually settled in both times and used its possession-based offense to create several chances. Perhaps the best came in the 61st minute as Santiago Echeverri (Medellin, Colombia./Celebration HS) took a free kick which was angling toward the underside of the crossbar before Washington keeper Spencer Richey leaped and punched the ball over the bar for what would be his final stop of the night.
Echeverri, who has been played well of late, gave FGCU 39 quality minutes off the bench and finished with a game-high-tying five shots. Washington started the game with a flurry, attempting three shots in the opening 12 minutes – two of which were headers and ticketed for the side netting before Ingham came up with vital stops by diving first to his right and then to his left.
After Washington, which has been ranked as high as No. 4 in the nation this year, built that 3-0 shot advantage, FGCU responded by leveling the pitch and eventually building a 5-3 shot edge. The two sides went into the halftime break equal in nearly every category as FGCU had a 7-6 shot advantage while Washington posted a 3-2 edge in corners.
The best opportunity, other than the goal, for either side in the second half came from the Huskies in the 74th minute as the FGCU defense – which was otherwise stout – turned the ball over, leaving lethal Washington striker Darwin Jones one-on-one with Ingham. However, the redshirt junior keeper charged at Jones – who already has 13 points on the year from five goals and three assists – and cut down his angle before making a save near the top of the box (photo).
The ball then careered right to Robertson – who now has nine points on the season off four goals and an assist – but his shot with an open net was blocked down by Ingham, who had just gotten back on his feet in enough time to dive all-out to his left about 18 yards off his goal line.
“We had a chance to win the game several times, and this was a game we felt very good about and I’m glad he (Washington’s coach) said that,” FGCU head coach Bob Butehorn said in reference to Huskies’ coach Jamie Clark stating that the Eagles are the best team his club has faced this year.
“Washington is one of the better teams in the country, and this (non-conference schedule) is a process. The most important thing for us is to learn how this all works and know that November and December are the important months,” Butehorn added in reference to his team’s demanding non-league docket in preparation of the Atlantic Sun Conference season.
The contest was a matchup between one of the nation’s best offensive teams and one of the country’s best defensive teams. Washington entered tied for second in the country in goals per game (3.0) as the Eagles kept them well below that average due in large part to Ingham and the backline of Skylar Wilks (Tampa, Fla./Newsome HS), Aaron Guillen (El Paso, Texas/Coronado HS), Santiago Ortiz (Cali, Colombia/Montverde Academy) and Will Suedois (Nice, France/Florida Virtual School). FGCU entered the contest with the nation’s 25th-best defense as the Eagles had a goals-against average of 0.55.
Washington now leads the all-time series between the two teams 2-0-1, earning its other win last year and tie (1-1) during the aforementioned 2011 contest at the Nike Invitational. The only higher-ranked opponent than Washington to travel to Southwest Florida was Ohio State in 2010 when the Buckeyes were ranked No. 5 in the nation.
The Huskies went 16-2-4 last year, won their second Pac-12 Championship and reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament after earning the No. 2 overall seed. Washington finished the campaign ranked No. 5 in the nation and returned eight starters from that team.
The crowd of 1,006 marks the first time in program history that FGCU has played consecutive home games in front of more than 1,000 fans as on Sept. 6 against 2010 National Champion Akron there were a record 1,574 in attendance. The crowd brought the season attendance total over 4,000 (4,118) in just the fourth home contest of the year, which is already the third-most for an entire season in program history with still at least five home games remaining.
FGCU will play one of those five games next as it hosts Brown University Saturday night at 7. The Bears will be facing off against FGCU for the first time. Brown – located in Providence, R.I. – has made 27 NCAA Championship appearances, with the last coming in 2012. The Bears are 2-3-0 on the year after falling at USF Thursday night, 3-1.
For 2014 men’s soccer ticket information, visit the Alico Arena Ticket Office, call 239-590-7145 or log on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets. For up-to-the minute information and a behind-the-scenes look at the program, follow on Twitter @FGCU_MSoccer and Instagram @FGCU_MSoccer.