FORT MYERS, Fla. – Senior Cristian Raudales (Bradenton, Fla./Manatee HS) tied the game in the second half and struck again in the 94th minute of overtime to give the No. 25 FGCU men’s soccer team a thrilling 2-1 Atlantic Sun win over Mercer on Friday night at the FGCU Soccer Complex.
Even more impressive, the Eagles overcame the one-goal deficit while playing the final 56:19 a man down after a red card was issued in the first half. It marked the second time this season that FGCU has overcome being a player short following a red card, as they earned a 1-1 draw against PAC-12 foe Washington at the Portland Nike Invite.
FGCU is now 5-3-2 on the season and, more importantly, improves to 2-0 in the A-Sun. The Eagles also extended their A-Sun win streak to 11 games and their home conference unbeaten streak to 12 games (11-0-1). Mercer (5-5-1) is now 1-2 in the league.
The program’s all-time leader in goals (16), Raudales has a knack for scoring when the Eagles are playing a man down. Raudales also scored a short-handed goal in the team’s 1-1 tie against Washington. He now leads the team in goals (4) and points (8).
Sophomore Deion Jones (Tampa, Fla./Freedom HS) provided a pair of assists on the night, including the pass that started the game-winning goal by Raudales. The direct pass on the golden tally came from junior William Morse (Sugar Land, Texas/Clements HS). Both Jones and Morse moved into a three-way tie with senior Josey Portillo (Metairie, La./Grace King HS) for the team assist lead with four.
Despite Mercer controlling play earlier, FGCU supplied the first great scoring chance of the game in the 19th minute. A give-and-go between junior Andres Navas (Miami, Fla./Sunset Senior HS/FIU) and Jones materialized into a shot at the top of 18 for Raudales, who fired the ball on frame but the effort was pushed away on a diving save by Mercer keeper Greg Ranjitsingh.
The Eagles nearly got on the board again in the 35th minute when senior Francesco DiStefano (Kissimmee, Fla./Osceola HS) headed a shot off the post and the rebound shot by Navas was turned away again by Ranjitsingh.
FGCU’s momentum came to halt just minutes later when senior defender Kevin Ante (Miami, Fla./Varela HS) was given his second yellow card, resulting in a red and a one-man advantage for the Bears. Mercer immediately capitalized, scoring on the ensuing free kick on ball served to the right post that was headed to the opposite post where junior Josh Shutter’s header made it 1-0 at the 36:56 mark.
The 1-0 Mercer lead held up at the half, while the Bears’ goal marked the first time in seven A-Sun home games, dating back to the 2009 campaign, that the Eagles have allowed a score to a visiting conference foe. Oddly enough, Mercer was the last A-Sun team to score at the FGCU Soccer Complex during a 2-1 FGCU win on Oct. 22, 2009.
The one-man disadvantage didn’t seem to affect the Eagles in the second half, as Raudales headed home his third goal of the season in the 56th minute to tie the game at 1-1. A Mercer foul just over the right side of midfield set up a free kick for the Green and Blue. Jones put the kick into the middle of the goal box where it found Raudales for the equalizer.
Jones nearly put the Eagles up just four minutes later, this time putting a free kick attempt literally on frame as the ball looked to be heading into the net before glancing off the right post.
Mercer had its best chance to end the game in regulation in the 78th minute, but a leaping save by redshirt senior and Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award finalist Adam Glick (Leola, Pa./Conestoga Valley HS) and a clutch clear off the goal line by junior defender Jelani Smith (Mississauga, Canada/Rick Hansen Secondary).
Raudales was able to put the game away in overtime, netting his fifth career game-winning goal at the 94:19 mark. The play started with Jones finding Morse just inside the right side of the box. Morse then sent a cross to the middle that Raudales headed into the left side of the net to complete the comeback.
Mercer held a 15-12 edge in shots, as both Glick and Ranjitsingh made three saves for their respective sides. The win was the 31st of Glick’s career.
FGCU will return to action a week from tonight when it begins a two-game A-Sun road trip by heading to USC Upstate on Friday, Oct. 14. Gametime is slated for 7 p.m.