WVU bests Pitt men’s soccer 2-1 in Backyard Brawl

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WVU bests Pitt men’s soccer 2-1 in Backyard Brawl

Sophomore forward Alexander Dexter completed the Panthers’ only goal during the team’s 2-1 loss at West Virginia Tuesday night.

Sophomore forward Alexander Dexter completed the Panthers’ only goal during the team’s 2-1 loss at West Virginia Tuesday night.

Bader Abdulmajeed | Staff Photographer

Sophomore forward Alexander Dexter completed the Panthers’ only goal during the team’s 2-1 loss at West Virginia Tuesday night.

Bader Abdulmajeed | Staff Photographer

Bader Abdulmajeed | Staff Photographer

Sophomore forward Alexander Dexter completed the Panthers’ only goal during the team’s 2-1 loss at West Virginia Tuesday night.

By Ben Zimmer, Staff Writer

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The Pitt men’s soccer team faced West Virginia in its last regular season road game Tuesday night at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia. Pitt was without its leading goal-scorer, sophomore forward Edward Kizza, and it showed — the Panthers put just one shot on goal and were outshot 14-5 overall, falling 2-1 to the Mountaineers.

The game exposed what has been one of the Panthers’ biggest flaws this season — their inability to generate any offense outside of Kizza, who has more than twice the amount of shots on goal, points and goals than any of his teammates. With Kizza forced to sit out after earning a red card in the team’s previous match, Pitt fell to 7-9 on the season.

Despite not being ranked like seven of the Panthers’ previous opponents, WVU entered Tuesday night as a formidable foe, with a 10-5 overall record and 3-0 conference record. The Mountaineers also had some added motivation, considering Pitt trounced them 7-0 in last year’s Backyard Brawl.

On the offensive front, Pitt utilized first-year midfielder Rodrigo Almeida and redshirt freshman midfielder Fiorre Mane in the middle of the field, with the outside pressure of sophomore forward Alexander Dexter on the left side and first-year defender Nyk Sessock on the right. Defensively, Pitt stonewalled the WVU attack with a unit of midfielders that shut down the channels of the Mountaineer attackers. To counteract this, WVU began going primarily around the perimeter of the field and attempting crosses into the box.

This tactic worked in their favor. A ground pass from the right side of the field from forward Tsubasa Takada arrived at the feet of midfielder Josh DiMatteo in the 16th minute. Although the pass was a little behind him, DiMatteo got enough power behind the ball to send it past Pitt first-year goalkeeper Johan Penaranda, giving WVU an early 1-0 advantage.

The second half was dominated by open play from both teams throughout the entire field, leading to an uptick in offensive opportunities. WVU routinely burst through the Pitt defensive zone, drawing a foul just outside the box in the 49th minute. The ensuing free kick proved to be the decisive moment of the match — WVU redshirt senior midfielder and captain Joey Piatczyc stepped up and delivered a beautiful shot past Penaranda into the upper right corner of the net, putting the Mountaineers up 2-0.

Despite facing a two-goal deficit, the Panthers didn’t lie down. They charged upfield immediately after the WVU goal, and Dexter scored his second goal of the season just one minute later in the 50th minute. This bounce-back from Pitt ignited the Mountaineers, who attempted to bury the game right away with a flurry of offensive attacks. They kicked five shots over the next 15 minutes — as many as the Panthers shot all game — but Pitt’s defense held strong.

The Pitt offense, however, could not find another breakthrough. WVU shifted toward a possession-based strategy, keeping the Panthers from starting any offensive plays. The only attempt from the Panthers came from Dexter in the 76th minute, who received a long ball on a breakaway down the middle of the field. Mountaineer midfielder Sebastian Garcia-Herreros ran down Dexter to execute a clean tackle, completely stifling the chance. WVU saw the rest of the game out, earning the 2-1 victory to avenge 2017’s blowout loss.

With Kizza returning, Pitt will look to rebound in its next — and last — match of the season, this Saturday, Oct. 27, versus No. 23 Notre Dame. The 7 p.m. home game is the Panthers’ senior night.

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