Pitt loses second straight game after conceding early road goal


By Mark Powell / Staff Writer

The game seemed to be over before it had even started.

Thanks to an early fifth-minute goal by the Pitt men’s soccer team’s opponent, Pitt had to fight back for almost the entire game, and that early goal proved to be enough to down the visiting Panthers.

A late second-half goal ended the Panthers’ hope to salvage a draw, as Xavier was able to hold on and beat Pitt 2-1 in a slow-moving game in Cincinnati on Tuesday night.

The loss drops Pitt to 3-5-3 for the season. While the record is still an improvement over last season’s, the team’s style of play during the last few games, especially offensively, has let it down.

The Panthers entered the season hoping to reverse the lack of offensive success they experienced last season, employing a tic-tac-toe style of passing, which emphasizes crisp passes in the midfield. Tuesday night was a far cry from their promising start in their season opener against Presbyterian.

The Panthers have proven unable to string together more than one successful offensive performance, and, against the Musketeers, they appeared more inclined to play defense and pass over the top.

Meanwhile, Xavier was happy to win the possession battle and created several early opportunities in the first half.

Alex Risdale scored for Xavier in the fifth minute of the game, as several defensive miscues by the Panthers in their own half gave Xavier its first chance at goal of the game.

The game was stagnant during the next 35 minutes, as neither team was able to settle into its preferred offensive strategy. Still, the Musketeers almost added to their lead in the 41st minute when Will Walker took on a Pitt defender one-on-one, shooting low and wide. Thankfully for the Panthers, goalkeeper Dan Lynd was up for the challenge and made a diving save.

Pitt’s defensive miscues were not surprising, considering they were missing three of their back four — Ryan Myers, Julian Dickenson and Andrew Wright.

A pleasant surprise for the Panthers was defender Steven Machi, who filled in on the back line. Machi also made his way forward on a few occasions to try and help Pitt’s floundering offense and contributed to the Panthers’ weak first-half shot total.

The second half started with a more wide-open style than both teams had played in the first half. Pitt got some good fortune in the 56th minute, as Xavier attempted to defend a sharp Panthers cross from the left-hand side, and one of the players accidentally headed the ball into his own team’s net.

Pitt’s offensive execution was more fluid starting the second half. Led by forward Patrick Dixon, the Panthers were able to keep the ball and engineer more chances at goal, starting in the midfield.

Xavier had several opportunities once they were able to settle in midway through the second half. However, unlike the first half, Pitt’s defense was strong and they didn’t give the Musketeers much room to operate in the final third.

But Xavier kept pushing, and, in the 78th minute, the Panthers conceded a questionable free kick from outside the box on the right wing, and Todd Pratzner was able to get on the end of it and head it in.

The goal seemed to inspire the Panthers’ offense, and Kevin Murray nearly evened the score in the 82nd minute but was denied by Xavier goaltender Eric Osswald.

However, that would prove to be Pitt’s best chance to equalize, and the Panthers dropped their second game in a row. The loss ended their four-game, non-conference unbeaten streak.