Panthers try to forget last game, focus on weekend


By Mark Powell / Staff Writer

After a bad loss, a team’s coach sometimes doesn’t make his team watch film of the performance and just pretend the game didn’t happen. There comes a point when it’s not beneficial to watch a sub-par performance. Tuesday night might have been one of those games for the Pitt men’s soccer team.

Now, the Pitt men’s soccer team travels Friday to visit Virginia Tech trying to forget about its latest performance.The Panthers play the Hokies Friday night in Blacksburg at 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Pitt expected to pick up its fourth win and extend its non-conference result streak to five games. While the team’s style of play dominated most of the game, Pitt could not convert on several opportunities, keeping Howard in the game.

It took 105 minutes, but Howard finally broke through a tired Pitt defense and scored the winning goal, leaving the Panthers shocked at the result.

“It was a difficult loss because we dominated the game in every aspect,” head coach Joe Luxbacher said. “Shots, possession, corners . . . we had all kinds of opportunities.”

Last season, Pitt beat Howard handily in a 9-0 win, easily the Panthers’ most impressive result of the season. The post-game feeling was a stark contrast to this year’s game, as coaches and players alike could not believe they had lost to such an inferior opponent.

The offense wasn’t the main problem for Pitt, as the team registered 25 shots on goal.

Unfortunately, none of the shots found the back of the net, and Howard’s goalkeeper kept several from breaking the tied score with sprawling saves.

Virginia Tech will be a tougher opponent for the Panthers. While they aren’t as tough as the top tier of ACC competition the Panthers have already played on the road, the Hokies still pose a challenge for a struggling Pitt side.

“They’re a good defensive team that has two guys up front that are both dangerous,” Luxbacher said. “They play a 4-4-2 setup and are a solid team. They don’t let up many goals or give up many opportunities. It’ll be a good test.”

Virginia Tech (7-5, 2-3 ACC) have had a tough October so far, losing 1-0 to Syracuse and 5-0 to North Carolina. However, both teams are ranked, and it should be expected that they will put out a better performance on Friday night.

Offensively, Ricardo John and Merlin Baus lead the Hokies. With nine and eight points, respectively, the two players will be the focal point of Pitt’s defense, which has gotten much healthier over the last several games since the returns of Ryan Myers and Julian Dickenson.

Myers and Dickenson had been out several games and it showed, as the Panthers tried to slow the ball at times and failed to simplify their defense by clearing the ball up the field. Myers specifically provides an offensive threat that Pitt has been missing, moving up from his right back position to be used as a weapon on the wing and deliver crosses to the middle.

With two of the team’s senior starters returning, defense may not be the issue Pitt needs to worry about going into this game. The Panthers haven’t scored a goal in their last two contests, and they’ve scored only once in their last five games.

As Luxbacher said, the Hokies are a strong defensive side and take a very concentrated approach. It will be important for Pitt to try and break them down early, because as the game wears on, the pressure to score tends to weigh on players.

“Our game is improving,” said sophomore midfielder Romeo Charron. “I’m sure we’ll find the passes and combinations that will get us points.”

Charron’s optimism is a good sign for the Panthers, who could easily still be demoralized after their disappointing loss earlier in the week.

“You gotta get past it,” Luxbacher said. “Obviously, that evening it was very upsetting, but you have to move forward and look now at Virginia Tech.”