While a 4-1 loss to the nation’s now-eighth-ranked team is a tough result from any angle, the men’s soccer team knew they couldn’t afford to dwell on the weekend loss heading into its next game on Tuesday.
And they didn’t, as the Pitt men’s soccer team put together a strong effort against Robert Morris to beat its cross-town rivals 2-0, evening its record in the process.
The win gives Pitt an overall record of 3-3-3. Comparatively, after nine games last season, the Panthers were 0-6-3.
The win was a far cry from their blowout loss to Louisville last week, as they got off to a disastrous start and didn’t show much offensive potential until they were down 4-0.
“We didn’t make critical mistakes at critical times [like the Louisville game],” coach Joe Luxbacher said. “It was a good win for the guys.”
The Panthers came out strong in the first half after their disappointing loss to the Cardinals. Pitt was able to control tempo and take advantage of its opportunities on the counterattack.
While Pitt and Robert Morris were even in shots with six at the end of the first 45, the tally wasn’t indicative of either side’s level of play.
In the first five minutes, Robert Morris looked much faster than Pitt, especially on the wing. Colonial forward Neco Brett nearly put RMU ahead early, hitting the crossbar in the second minute.
However, the Panthers made an adjustment, keeping their left and right backs on defense and focusing on the counterattack.
“Defensively we tightened up,” Luxbacher said. “Overall this [was] a good team effort.”
In their last time out, the Panthers were embarrassed by then-ninth-ranked Louisville, so it was important for them to get off to a fast start, and forward Hamish Law helped them do just that.
After several opportunities, the Panthers were able to break through in the 22nd minute, when Law struck from long distance on a shot that deflected off a Colonials’ defender.
“It was really important [to get off to a fast start],” Law, a freshman, said. “There’s been a couple of games of late where we haven’t.”
Pitt has not gotten much good fortune this year, especially on the road. In the team’s last two games away from Ambrose Urbanic Field, it was outscored 7-1 by Louisville and North Carolina.
The Panthers picked up where they left off early in the second half, recording the first three shots. Pitt nearly added to its lead in the 51st minute off a corner, but Robert Morris goalkeeper Branden Alfery made a sprawling save on defender Stephane Pierre’s attempt.
The Colonials’ best chance in the second half once again came from Brett, who blew through the center of Pitt’s defense, only to be foiled on a great save from Pitt goalkeeper Dan Lynd.
The Panthers put the game away in the 71st minute on a goal by Dan Prete, who was assisted on a pinpoint cross by Andrew Wright. The goal marked Prete’s third of the season.
The goal raised concerns about Robert Morris’s defense, as Prete was uncovered at the far post, with multiple defenders in the box.
Unlike recent games, Pitt was able to finish strong by keeping the pressure on Robert Morris and staying compact defensively.
The final stats accurately reflected the outcome of the game, as the Panthers dominated the shot total 16-9, forcing Alfery to make five saves.
Defensively, Pitt limited Robert Morris to only a few opportunities. Lynd recorded his fourth shutout of the season and looked confident in goal, making several sprawling stops and good decisions, such as when to come off his line.
“We knew coming in they had three guys that could be dangerous,” Lynd said. “We were focused on keeping everything going backwards.”
The game should give Pitt confidence going into its next home game against Virginia Saturday, another ranked opponent who made the Final Four last season.