Men’s Soccer: Pitt defeats Syracuse in double overtime

By Greg Trietley

On an otherwise miserable night, the Pitt men’s soccer team pulled out a theatrical 2-1… On an otherwise miserable night, the Pitt men’s soccer team pulled out a theatrical 2-1 double-overtime win over the Syracuse Orange Saturday on Pitt’s upper campus.

Senior Ryan Brode scored the game winner with five minutes remaining in the second overtime to cap a come-from-behind victory in frigid temperatures at Ambrose Urbanic Field. The temperature at kickoff was 46 degrees, and wind gusts reached 25 miles per hour.

Brode redirected sophomore Ryan McKenzie’s entry ball past Syracuse goalkeeper Phil Boerger in the 105th minute to give the Panthers (3-6-1, 1-1-0 Big East) their first conference win in dramatic fashion.

“Ryan McKenzie delivered a beautiful ball and he pretty much put it right on my head,” Brode said after the game. “I just tried to redirect it into the goal. It worked out.”

The goal was his first of the season, as was McKenzie’s assist.

“Tonight was a big win,” head coach Joe Luxbacher said after the game. “We get three points. It’s a Big East game. Guys get some confidence. We needed it.”

Neither Pitt nor Syracuse (2-7-0, 0-2-0 Big East) could mount much offense in the first half, when the wind was its strongest. The Orange had three shots on goal to the Panthers’ zero, but none of those shots were dangerous.

“When you first come out, the weather is a factor,” Pitt freshman forward Chukwudi “Chu Chu” Onyeukwu said after the game. “But after you get going, you get your feet warm and you get your body warm, you put it behind you and play.”

Pitt out-cornered the Orange 10-7 on the night, but Syracuse out-shot the Panthers 14-13.

The Panthers’ best first-half chance came in the 27th minute when freshman defender Matt Walbert let off a long shot that caught Boerger off-guard. The ball rolled past the diving keeper and just missed the left post.

Nick Roydhouse, who leads Syracuse with six points this season, had three shots in the first half. His last one, in the final minute before intermission, came from inside the box but sailed high over Pitt goalkeeper Lee Johnston.

Johnston returned to action Saturday after missing nearly three weeks with a concussion sustained in a Sept. 11 game against Bowling Green.

“He just got cleared to train again really this week,” Luxbacher said. “He was big tonight.”

Johnston finished with six saves and improved to 2-1-1 this year.

The Orange finally cracked the Panther defense a minute into the second half. Junior midfielder Ted Cribley fed forward Louis Clark in the box with a pretty pass, and Clark ripped one over Johnston to put Syracuse up 1-0 and earn the player his second goal on the year.

The score sent Pitt scrambling, and for the next six minutes the Orange pinned the Panthers in their own end.

But one breakout put Pitt back square with Syracuse. After a clear, Walbert led Onyeukwu with a breakaway pass. Onside by a hair, Onyeukwu snuck the ball under a diving Boerger to tie the game in the 52nd minute.

“The center back came up to him [Walbert], and there was a huge gap. I said, ‘Walbert,’ he saw me and he played me,” Onyeukwu said.

The goal was the first of Onyeukwu’s college career.

“We played a lot of freshmen tonight,” Luxbacher said. “We had probably six or seven freshmen out there most of the time. It’s an evolving process. We’ve been making mistakes that have been killing us in earlier games. Tonight we got solid play throughout.”

Boerger had the save of regulation in the 70th minute. Sophomore Nico Wrobel snuck the ball through a pair of Orange defenders to freshman Dan Prete, who released a high, hard shot heading for the top left corner. But Boerger dove in desperation to tip the ball over the goal.

In the first overtime, Johnston matched Boerger’s diving stop when Roydhouse let a low strike go from just outside the box. Johnston dove to his right to snag the shot.

“He not only dove to save it, but he held the ball,” Luxbacher said. “If it would have popped loose, it was in the back of the net.”

Pitt nearly ended the game with seconds to play in the first overtime. Wrobel found himself behind the Syracuse defense to the left of the goal, and he rocketed a shot off the left post. The rebound ricocheted to McKenzie, but his attempt was blocked as time expired.

Brode made no mistake five minutes later to snap Pitt’s two-game losing streak.