FORT MYERS, Fla. – The nation’s leading returning goal scorer finally made his season debut, the Eagles tallied a trio of highlight-reel goals and the FGCU men’s soccer team (5-3-1) took down the nation’s 24th-ranked club Tuesday night at home with a 3-2 victory over Omaha (7-3-2).
The win extends FGCU’s unbeaten streak to five in a row (4-0-1) as the Green and Blue have now won four straight – tied for the 7th-longest streak in the country. It also marks the 100th victory in program history for FGCU, which fielded its first team in just 2007.
After finishing runner-up for the MAC Hermann Trophy – college soccer’s equivalent of the Heisman a year ago – Albert Ruiz missed the first eight games of this season recovering from an injury, but made his return Tuesday. Ruiz (Barcelona, Spain/ CE L’Hospitalet/UE Cornella) entered the match in the 30th minute, and by the 44th minute had scored his first goal of the campaign.
That strike tied the match at 1-1 entering halftime, and in the 2nd half the Eagles received incredible goals from freshmen Chris Clement and Kareem Riley to put the game out of reach – the latter from Riley (Couva, Trinidad and Tobago/Presentation College) from nearly 40 yards out which stood up as the game winner.
“I thought we played a fantastic 1st half,” stated FGCU head coach Jesse Cormier. “Omaha did a good job to get its goal, but that was against the run of play, and I thought we managed the half very well. We were dangerous; we created numerous opportunities, but just couldn’t finish. Then Albert showed up and showed us how to do it, and it just brought life and excitement to the team.
“The two 2nd-half goals were fantastic,” Cormier continued. “I was a little disappointed we conceded and let them back into it, but overall I’m pretty happy. It’s a good home win over a nationally-ranked team.”
FGCU finished the match with a decided 15-5 shot advantage, forcing Omaha keeper Joseph Ghitis into five saves. As has been the case during its unbeaten run, the Eagles’ backline did much of the work as they only allowed two shots on target all night – both of which found the back of the net. During its four-game winning streak, FGCU has only surrendered six shots on target and conceded two goals.
After not allowing a goal the previous three games and having its shutout streak reach 309 consecutive minutes, FGCU finally allowed a goal as Omaha took advantage of a set piece in the game’s 12th minute. After an FGCU foul, Xavier Gomez took the free kick, and perfectly sent a curving cross into the box where Elvir Ibisevic headed his team-leading seventh goal of the year to the right of sophomore Jared Brown (Aurora, Ontario/St. Maximilian Kolbe CHS), who was making his first start, and appearance, since the season opener.
Then stepped up last season’s nation-leading goal scorer: Ruiz.
Off a corner with a little over a minute left in the opening half, the ball found its way to Robert Ferrer (Barcelona, Spain/Brevard College/IES Calamot). He played a short pass across the box to Miguel Perez (Weston, Fla./Cypress Bay HS), whose shot rifled off a UNO defender and fell to Ruiz. The ASUN Preseason Player of the Year volleyed a left-footed effort from close, contested range into the far-upper 90 to knot the contest at 1-1 (goal video).
The Eagles took the lead in the 59th minute when Clement (Mallorca, Spain/Lycee Francais de Palma) dialed up his first collegiate goal. Miguel Jaime (Denver, Colo./Cherry Creek HS) found some space in the midfield and played a square ball to Clement. The defender had plenty of time – and space – and curved a beautiful, right-footed shot from about 25 yards inside the right post to make it 2-1 FGCU (goal video).
Just 1:39 later, the Eagles made it 3-1 on a shot likely to end up on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays. Making his first appearance in four matches as he recovered from a hamstring injury, Dennis Zapata (Orlando, Fla./University HS) set up Riley, but it was the big, powerful midfielder who did the rest. With no one closing in on him, Riley rifled a laser of a shot from approximately 40 yards out which remained on a line the entire way to the goal, and beat Ghitis just under the crossbar (goal video).
The Mavericks got one of the goals back in the closing minutes as Ibisevic netted his second of the game in the 79th minute, but the Eagles were able to hold on during a windy, and at-times rainy, evening at the FGCU Soccer Complex.
Making the victory even more impressive is that Omaha had not allowed more than one goal in a game all year. FGCU – which led the nation in goals last year, but has been missing several key pieces early in this year because of injuries – put that offense on display as Ghitis entered the match ranked 21st in the nation with a 0.68 goals-against average.
FGCU is now 100-66-25 (.589) in 10+ seasons, including a dominant 54-18-7 (.728) record in ASUN contests. Since the program’s first two seasons in 2007 and 2008, FGCU has posted a winning record each of the past eight years, including double-figure victory totals in half of those campaigns.
The Eagles resume ASUN action on Saturday, Oct. 7, by welcoming Lipscomb to the FGCU Soccer Complex for a 7 p.m. kickoff in a rematch of last season’s ASUN Tournament semifinal. The Bisons are 5-5-0 on the year, and 1-2-0 in ASUN action.
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.
HEAD COACH JESSE CORMIER
Jesse Cormier was hired in January 2017 to become just the 2nd head coach in program history. The head coach at Vermont for the previous 13 seasons, Cormier won 14 games with the Catamounts in 2016 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Second Round. During his time with Vermont, Cormier guided the program to the America East Tournament in 12 of 13 seasons, making five title game appearances, winning two tournament crowns, claiming a regular-season championship and advancing to three NCAA tournaments, including a pair of Second Round appearances. Cormier has a 119-92-48 (.552 winning percentage) overall record as a head coach.
SUPPORT THE CAUSE
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.