Soccer: Panthers gear up for Cleveland State

By Greg Trietley

For most of this season, the Pitt men’s soccer team has struggled to score. Sophomore Nico… For most of this season, the Pitt men’s soccer team has struggled to score. Sophomore Nico Wrobel had five of the Panthers’ seven goals, which mostly came on dead-ball situations — not from perfect passes or sustained offensive pressure.

That changed Saturday when four different Panthers recorded their first point of the season in the team’s 2-1 come-from-behind double overtime victory over the Syracuse Orange.

“It took 11 players, plus the guys that came in,” senior Ryan Brode said after the game. “It was really a great win.”

When the Panthers (3-6-1, 1-1-0 Big East) play the Cleveland State Vikings (3-6-1, 1-1-1 Horizon) Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Pitt’s upper campus, they will look to build off a conference win in which they scored more than one goal for the first time this season.

Pitt pulled even in conference play with Saturday’s double overtime win after dropping its Big East opener Sept. 23 at Rutgers, 3-1.

“[Syracuse] was a team effort,” head coach Joe Luxbacher said after the game. “The guys played hard, and they’ve been playing hard. Last week at Rutgers — Rutgers is a very good team — we were in the game and made one mistake, and they scored the second goal to go ahead. It’s an evolving process.”

The Panthers are the only team in the Big East to average under one goal per game (0.9).

After two games against conference rivals, Pitt will shift gears against Cleveland State, a nonconference opponent hailing from the Horizon League. Like the Panthers, the Vikings recorded a crucial victory last weekend, when they defeated Milwaukee 3-2 to earn their first conference win and snap a six-game losing streak.

Admir Suljevic, Aaron Adkins and Zach Ellis-Hayden scored the goals on the road Saturday for the Vikings. The team nearly let a three-goal lead evaporate by allowing Milwaukee to score twice in the final four minutes.

Vikings goalkeeper Brad Stuver had eight saves in the win.

Pitt goalkeeper Lee Johnston had six saves Saturday night against the Orange to improve to 2-1-1 on the year. Johnston has a 0.76 goals-against average in six appearances this season, the lowest of the four Panther keepers that have seen action.

But it wasn’t the play in goal that needed improvement, as Pitt had recently struggled to generate much on offense.

That changed in the second half against Syracuse. Freshman forward Chu Chu Onyeukwu scored the first goal of his career in the 52nd minute. Luxbacher said that he wasn’t surprised that Onyeukwu finally found the net Saturday.

“Chu Chu had a really good week of practice,” Luxbacher said. “He’s a goal scorer, but he’s struggled so far. This week, I thought he had his best week of practice, and it showed. He was dangerous all night.”

In the second overtime, Brode scored his first goal of the season to win the game when he redirected Ryan McKenzie’s entry ball past Syracuse goalkeeper Phil Boerger.

“Ryan Brode puts the team on his back,” Onyeukwu said Saturday after the game.

Brode led the team last season with 43 shots, but like so many Panthers, slumped earlier this year.

“He played a great game,” Luxbacher said. “He not only scored the winning goal, he was winning balls in the air … He just played a great game in all aspects.”

Wednesday’s game marks the second of four straight games at Ambrose Urbanic Field. Pitt began the season with a four-game road trip.