EVANSTON, Ill. – All three goals in the FGCU men’s soccer team’s season opener were of the penalty kick variety, but unfortunately for the Eagles host Northwestern converted both of its opportunities Friday night as the Wildcats claimed a 2-1 win at Martin Stadium.
Preseason All-ASUN member Albert Ruiz tallied FGCU’s lone goal in the 72nd minute as the Eagles were fighting their way back into the contest. FGCU – which is receiving votes in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Preseason Poll – finished the game with a dominant 23-8 edge in shots and a 5-3 advantage in corners, but dropped its first season opener since 2012 when then-#2 Akron shut out the Eagles.
Brandon Medina deposited both goals for Northwestern – the first in the 22nd minute and the second just more than a minute into the 2nd half.
The first PK was awarded after a Northwestern player flicked a seemingly harmless ball further up the pitch off a throw-in. However, just inches before Nicolas Samayoa (Guatemala City, Guatemala/Colegio Valle Verde) could let the ball go out along the goal line, a Northwestern player was able to gain possession and moments later was taken down in the box.
The second PK came off a Northwestern set piece as Kamar Marriott (Tampa, Fla./Heritage HS) was whistled for a foul on a Wildcat player who appeared to be diving for the service cross, but instead was given the benefit of the doubt on the Marriott foul call.
With FGCU battling to trim the deficit, Miguel Jaime (Denver, Colo./Cherry Creek HS) was taken down in nearly the exact same spot as the first PK was awarded. Ruiz stepped up and beat Northwestern keeper Francisco Tomasino to his left. The strike added to the junior’s program-record PK tally as he now has six – two more than anyone else in FGCU history.
“We created so many chances that I thought it was just a matter of time before we converted one,” stated FGCU head coach Bob Butehorn. “We played pretty well. I wasn’t disappointed in our play at all, but we committed too many fouls which led to too many restarts. It’s hard to go down 2-0 because Northwestern just sat in after that and it’s tough to score. It was a good game and the type of contest I like to challenge our team with early in the year. We have another one on Monday at home against Michigan, and hopefully our fans come out to give us a boost and a win.”
Dylan Sacramento (Winnipeg, Manitoba/York University/Bill Crothers S.S.) led FGCU with six shots, while Dennis Zapata (Orlando, Fla./University HS) added five as two-thirds of the Eagles’ strikers accounted for nearly half of their shots.
Just about 10 minutes before Ruiz’s goal, arguably FGCU’s next-best chance of the night came off the foot of Preston Kilwien (San Francisco, Calif./College Park HS). Following a Northwestern hand ball off a Zapata shot just outside the top of the box, Kilwien stepped up from his back left position and – while the Wildcats were still positioning themselves and Sacramento stood over the ball – rocketed a low, left-footed shot right into Tomasino.
The scoring opportunity was the first of a frenetic 15-minute stretch in which FGCU out-shot Northwestern, 6-1, but the one opportunity for the Wildcats was a point-blank opportunity just after Ruiz’s goal in which freshman goalkeeper Jared Brown (Aurora, Ontario/St. Maximilian Kolbe CHS) was equal to the task.
Making his first collegiate start following the departure of all-time ASUN career shutout leader Nathan Ingham, Brown made three saves – the biggest coming on the aforementioned 1-on-1 which allowed the Eagles to stay within striking distance over the final 15 minutes.
And strike they would, but not on frame, as all four of FGCU’s shots in the closing minutes were high or wide as the Wildcats claimed the first meeting between the two schools.
FGCU opened in a 3-4-3 formation – a more offensive look than last year in which it played mostly a 4-3-3. Three newcomers were in Butehorn’s starting lineup, as in addition to keeper Brown, junior transfer Jiro Barriga Toyama (Chiba, Japan/Barton CC/Chibakennrituoihama HS) started as a left midfielder and freshman Thomas Delplace (Toulouse, France/Scientific Bac) started at center back.
Northwestern was the first of three Big Ten opponents the Eagles will face in 2016. The second meeting will come very quickly as the Green and Blue return home to face Michigan for their home opener Monday night at 7. The Wolverines opened their season with a 0-0 double-overtime draw at #19 USF Friday night.
Tickets are still available and can be secured by clicking here. The team will be holding a poster signing after the game, and all fans in attendance are encouraged to wear green.
For up-to-the minute information and a behind-the-scenes look at the FGCU men’s soccer program, follow on Twitter @FGCU_MSoccer, Instagram @FGCU_MSoccer, Facebook /FGCUMSoccer and YouTube /FGCUAthletics.
FGCU is led by Bob Butehorn, who has coached six professional players and 54 ASUN All-Conference selections since FGCU started its program in 2007. In just five years of postseason eligibility, Butehorn has guided FGCU to three ASUN Tournament championships and NCAA Tournament appearances – in 2011, 2012 and 2014 – and has won an unprecedented six-straight ASUN regular-season championships. His teams have been ranked nationally on several occasions by multiple media outlets. Now in his 14th season as a head coach, Butehorn has a 115-91-25 (.552) overall record, 81-59-21 (.569) mark in his nine seasons at FGCU and 48-17-6 (.718) record in ASUN contests.
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FGCU Athletics sponsors events throughout the year to benefit the FGCU Campus Food Pantry (www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry) and the Harry Chapin Food Bank (www.harrychapinfoodbank.org), FGCU Athletics’ charities of choice. For more information, including how to make a contribution, please visit www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry and utilize the hashtag #FeedFGCU to help raise awareness.