Picking up where it left off, Pitt men’s soccer wins City Game 1-0 to open spring season

Senior+defender+Bryce+Washington+%284%29+pictured+against+Lehigh%2C+scored+the+game-winning+goal+against+Duquesne+on+Saturday+on+a+penalty+kick

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Senior defender Bryce Washington (4) pictured against Lehigh, scored the game-winning goal against Duquesne on Saturday on a penalty kick

By Dalton Coppola, For The Pitt News

The No. 2 Pitt men’s soccer team squared off against Duquesne for the 10th time in the two crosstown rivals’ history at Ambrose Urbanic Field on Saturday. The Panthers came into the match with a 7-0-2 all-time record against the Dukes. Pitt contributed to its win total against the Dukes with a 1-0 victory Saturday — the deciding goal coming off of senior defenseman Bryce Washington’s penalty kick in the 35th minute.

With the Pittsburgh skyline in the distance, the two teams renewed their rivalry in the City Game on Saturday — the winner claiming bragging rights as the area’s best collegiate soccer program.

Pitt graduate student defender Jasper Löeffelsend went down with an injury early in the match, and first-year forward Brandon Clagette replaced him. Pitt head coach Jay Vidovich said Löeffelsend suffered a leg contusion, but does not think it will keep him off the field long term.

Senior midfielder Matt Bailey also exited the game with a concussion. Vidovich said the program will evaluate Bailey and follow the concussion protocol before clearing him to return.

Pitt had its first real offensive chance when Dukes junior goalkeeper Domenic Nascimben saved Pitt sophomore midfielder Veljko Petkovic’s shot in the seventh minute. The ball deflected right to sophomore forward Valentin Noel, who ripped a shot just over the crossbar, forcing the Panthers to regress back to playing on the defensive around midfield for much of the first half.

Both teams struggled to maintain possession for much of the first half, as neither team developed any real offensive threats. Costly turnovers in the Dukes’ territory plagued the Panthers early and often in the first half. Vidovich attributed the slow start to the elongated break taken between this game and their last game in the fall, a Nov. 22 loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship.

“The guys haven’t played in three months,” Vidovich said. “Now we got a taste of the game and now we know what we have to do better.”

The Panther offense performed lackluster at best to start the game, but the defense did not disappoint. The Dukes struggled to advance the ball into the Panthers’ end of the field for much of the first half, with no shots on goal for the first 45 minutes.

The Dukes lacked discipline in the first half, committing eight fouls to the Panthers’ two. Duquesne first-year midfielder Ryan Goodhew received a yellow card inside of the box in the 35th minute, awarding the Panthers a penalty kick. Pitt sent Washington out to take the shot and he capitalized, sending the ball into the left side of the net to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead and receiving high praise from Vidovich after the game.

“I was happy with Bryce,” Vidovich said. “I like how he defended and led the backline today.”

This goal seemed to provide the Panthers with the momentum they needed heading into the half. Pitt controlled the ball for much of the remainder of the match, forcing the Dukes to play defensively.

Pitt goalkeeper Nico Campuzano didn’t have to make his first save until the 53rd minute, off of a weak header from Duquesne — the only save he had to make all game.

The City rivalry began to show its teeth in the second half of the game, forcing the referees to issue several warnings to players from both teams after some jawing among the players. The Dukes racked up five yellow cards over the course of the match due to a combination of aggressive play and several confrontations among themselves and the Panthers. Vidovich has preached discipline to his players this year and has seen the results.

“We’ve done a much better job this year,” Vidovich said. “Our card count is lower in nine games this year than two or three games last year. We showed a lot of discipline today.”

Noel, the nation’s leading scorer in the fall, cleared the Dukes’ defense in the 66th minute for a one-on-one opportunity with Nascimben — which he sent well over the crossbar, burning one of the few good chances Pitt had in the game.

The ball remained on the Dukes’ end of the field for much of the second half. Clagette secured a good look and sent a shot hard on net in the 70th minute, but Nascimben made a phenomenal diving save.

The Panthers sent through balls toward the net for much of the second half, but failed to pose any real threat outside of a handful of opportunities. The Duquesne defense proved that it may bend, but it would not break under the pressure posed by the aggressive offensive attack of the Panthers.

Despite a strong defensive effort from the Dukes, it was not enough. Pitt’s defense, led by Washington, proved dominant enough for the Panthers to escape with a victory.

“We found a win,” Vidovich said. “I think this game serves as a measuring stick for all of the work we have left to do.”

The Panthers return to ACC play next Friday with a game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at 7 p.m. in Chapel Hill.

Leave a comment.