MIAMI, Fla.- The Thundering Herd men’s soccer team took to the field against Florida International University on Friday night in search of a win that would pull the squad back to a level, .500 record on the year and give it a 1-0 start to the Conference USA season. And while it may have come in a more dramatic fashion than most would have hoped, the Herd was able to secure a thrilling, 2-1 victory over the Panthers in double overtime to move to 4-4 on the year and 1-0 in C-USA play.
Leading up to the game, all the talk surrounded Tom Jackson and his hattrick performance in the previous match against Winthrop, but it was sophomore Anthony Virgara and his two goals that stole the spotlight at the FIU Soccer Stadium on Friday night.
After a rather dull first half, the game sparked to life in the 51st minute when Virgara worked his magic on a well-struck shot that left FIU goalkeeper Eric Reyes without a chance as the ball curled inside the far post for a 1-0 Marshall lead.
The host Panthers would respond, though, scoring a goal from just inside the 18-yard box via a powerful Arnthor Kristinsson drive that eluded the hands of Herd goalkeeper Daniel Withrow. The 79th minute strike put the game at 1-1, and both teams rode out the result to overtime.
After a goalless first period, Virgara once again showed why he was a member of last year’s C-USA All-Freshman Team, and a player head coach Bob Gray calls “one of the most exciting in the conference,” when he scored the golden goal that gave the Herd its fourth straight win. The sophomore midfielder received a pass from junior Peter Bulat, and managed to slide the ball beyond Reyes for the winning score.
“We battled hard tonight,” said head coach Bob Gray. “For it to be our first conference game of the season, on the road, against a tough FIU team, that was a huge win.”
Goalkeeper Daniel Withrow also played a large part in the victory, helping Marshall overcome a 10-20 differential in shots with 11 saves on the night.
“Daniel made several big stops tonight,” said Gray. “I thought the teams were pretty evenly matched, but he was able to deny FIU some good opportunities to keep us in it. I’m disappointed we allowed them to come back and tie the game after we were ahead by a goal, but in the end it was a big win and a great way to start out conference play.”
The Herd will now sit atop the conference for at least a night as the rest of the C-USA teams wait to begin play on Saturday. Marshall’s celebrations will be short-lived though, as the team must now make the trek to Boca Raton in preparation for Sunday’s match with the Florida Atlantic University Owls, who own a 5-3-1 record for the season. The match kickoff is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. at the FAU Soccer Stadium. For live stats please click here.