Panthers surrender late equalizer in drama-filled draw


By Mark Powell / Staff Writer

Despite an impressive second-half performance, Pitt was unable to get past Niagara in a disappointing and controversial ending and only managed a draw for its effort.

Unable to decide the game in regulation for the third straight game, the Panthers and Purple Eagles went into sudden-death overtime, in which the first team to score would win instantly.

The overtime session was dominated more by the referees than the players, as they handed out two yellow cards and a red card in the final 20 minutes of the 100-minute affair.

Defender Ryan Myers received the red card after a reported disagreement with the referee, and he was forced to leave the game as a result.

Head coach Joe Luxbacher said the referee gave him an explanation shortly after the exit of his number 10.

“He [the ref] said it was language directed at the ref,” Luxbacher said. “Myers says he didn’t say anything. There might have been something said, but he [Myers] said he wasn’t the guy.”

The dispute came after Pitt believed the referee had missed a penalty at the other end of the field, inside Niagara’s 18-yard box. The foul would have given the Panthers a penalty kick and a chance at winning the game with just less than two minutes remaining.

Despite the theatrics, the Panthers’ record now stands at 2-3-2 on the season with a matchup against ninth-ranked Louisville on the road looming on Friday.

The draw was Pitt’s third in three games on the homestand, a disappointing trio of results since two of the ties came against weaker, non-conference opponents.

Like the flag at Ambrose Urbanic Field — which was mysteriously absent during the National Anthem — the Panthers’ offense seemed nonexistent early on.

The Purple Eagles outshot the Panthers 8-2 in the first half, though goalkeeper Dan Lynd only had to make one save.

While Pitt won the possession battle over Niagara, its interior passing in the midfield was lacking, and the team couldn’t provide any sufficient chances at goal.

The second half started brilliantly for the Panthers, as their offense looked fluid, and the midfield communicated well with the forwards to create high-volume chances.

Pitt’s goal came in the 50th minute, when freshman midfielder Raj Kahlon found junior defender Kevin Fielden tearing down the sideline, who crossed the ball into the box for an easy finish from midfielder Dan Prete.

Prete was quick to credit his teammates on the goal.

“Someone made a nice run down the left, and Cory… made a good run and brought a defender with him, which left me wide open behind him. He led it, and I had a wide open shot in the middle of the box, and I was able to tuck it in the corner,” he said.

The Panthers looked satisfied with their goal and kept pressuring the Purple Eagles in the midfield — a spot where they looked vulnerable throughout the game.

However, the mood and confidence of Pitt quickly changed in the 69th minute when sophomore Brandon Kolczynski attempted to clear a dangerous cross from the wing, but he accidentally redirected the ball into his own net.

“Brandon tried to kick it out, but it just came off his foot the wrong way,” said Fielden. “Dan tried to get it but it just got through him.”

Pitt responded positively in the final 20 minutes and overtime but was unable to find the go-ahead goal.

Similar to the loss to Lafayette, Luxbacher said the Panthers have to play sharper, especially against better opponents.

“We weren’t sharp tonight at all, and we had talked that good teams should get ready for every game… we weren’t tonight,” he said. “We were on our back foot most of the night. The general play wasn’t nearly the standard I expect…that’s what’s frustrating.”

Pitt travels to ninth-ranked Louisville for its next game on Friday.