Panthers advance to NCAA semifinals after defeating Portland 1-0


Hannah Wilson | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt men’s soccer players react to their 1-0 win over Portland in the elite eight round of the NCAA men’s soccer tournament.

By Brian Sherry, Senior Staff Writer

Every athlete’s dreams of stepping up when the lights are the brightest, and senior midfielder Valentin Noel lived that dream on Saturday in the NCAA men’s soccer quarterfinal. 

The French midfielder scored a game-winning overtime goal, sending Pitt to its second College Cup in three years.

Noel’s goal was enough to secure the 1-0 win over Portland on Saturday afternoon at Ambrose Urbanic Field. But Noel said he doesn’t remember the moment. 

“I don’t remember [the goal],” Noel said. “I blacked out, basically.”

The fans erupted when Noel delivered the game-winning goal. More than 2,200 fans packed into Ambrose Urbanic Field, creating an intimidating environment for the visiting Pilots. The game was a sellout, as spectators spanned nearly the entire perimeter of the field to watch the contest. Noel said he has never experienced a crowd like that before.

“Honestly, I’ve never experienced a crowd like that loud before,” Noel said. “So it was fantastic.”

The Panthers were in control for most of the game, outshooting the Pilots 28-5. But Portland continually stymied the Panthers’ scoring opportunities, forcing the game into overtime. 

Pitt began the game with a dominant first half, firing off 15 shots in the period. But the Panthers just couldn’t capitalize. Portland graduate student goalkeeper Geroge Tasouris took care of business, accumulating six saves in the half. Head coach Jay Vidovich was frustrated to see Pitt miss scoring opportunities again and again.

“When you’re just missing or their keeper keeps coming up big, that’s frustrating,” Vidovich said. “But that’s where the strength comes in and the lesson learned is just to stay with the plan and they did.”

The Panthers were determined to score first, rattling off five shots in the first 10 minutes of action. Graduate student defenseman Lucas Rosa led the early Panther charge, firing off two shots on goal within the first 10 minutes. Vidovich said the relentless shooting was part of the Panthers’ game plan.

“We just said ‘let’s be like waves on the beach,’” Vidovich said. “We just keep coming and coming.”

Portland couldn’t manage to find the back of the net either, as they were on the defensive for much of the early period. 

Pitt continued to rattle off shots, with little success. Junior forward Bertin Jacquesson found separation from his defender in front of the net in the 30th minute, but the junior forward’s shot was blocked by Portland defenders before making it to the net. The French forward shot three times in the first half.

Portland finally found some offense in the 32nd minute, as junior defenseman Nick Denley fired off a shot. But the Pitt defenders put a quick end to the Pilot scoring opportunity, blocking the shot before it reached the goalkeeper. 

Pitt had a sure-fire scoring opportunity in the closing minutes of the first half. Sophomore midfielder Guilherme Feitosa was open right in front of the Pilot goal. But Feitosa put too much power behind the shot, firing it well above the net. 

Both teams headed into the locker room tied at 0-0. 

The Panthers continued their fast-paced offense in the second half, but the team still couldn’t put points on the board. Rosa fired a quick shot toward the goal, but missed just high off the crossbar. 

Portland also continued its first half gameplan. The Pilots stalled, waiting for the Panthers to make a mistake. But their slow approach eventually caused problems. Tasouris drew a yellow card for time wasting in the 54th minute. 

The Pilots began locking up the Panthers in the second half, limiting their shooting opportunities. But Pitt still managed to fire off 13 shots in the period. 

But the Panthers still found opportunities. Rosa launched a shot in the 67th minute, but the shot ricocheted off the crossbar.

Frustrations began to mount for both teams, leading to an abundance of yellow cards in the second half. Five yellow cards were drawn in the second half, four for Portland and one for Pitt. 

The Panthers found a scoring opportunity in the 73rd minute, as Jaquessson rushed down the right side of the field. The French forward passed toward Noel. But Noel couldn’t capitalize off the perfect positioning, missing just right of the post. 

Miss after miss, the Panthers failed to find the back of the net in the second half. Regulation ended with not a single point on the board. 

Both teams spent the opening minutes of overtime feeling each other out. The Panthers found a shot in the 97th minute, but nothing came out of it. 

The game began to open up in the second overtime period, as both teams found scoring opportunities. But only Pitt managed to capitalize in the second overtime period. 

The Panthers battled through Portland defenders to get the ball right in front of the Pilot goal. Noel ultimately stepped up, hammering the ball into the back of the net. Chaos erupted as fans celebrated the go-ahead goal.

But the Pilots wouldn’t go down that easily.

Portland battled to find the equalizer, trying everything to find a goal — but to no avail. The Panthers held out the Pilot comeback attempt to win 1-0.

The win gives Pitt a spot in the College Cup in Cary, NC and will play the winner of the Indiana-UNC Greensboro game. The match will begin on Friday. Kickoff is TBD and coverage will air on ESPNU.