Men’s soccer must play without defender at Louisville


By Mark Powell / Staff Writer

After a disappointing end to a three-game homestand, Pitt men’s soccer may have forgotten how not to tie, with three straight draws to Niagara, NC State and Lafayette. 

Now, Pitt goes on the road to face the ninth-ranked Louisville Cardinals tonight and play without one of its key contributors after an ejection last game.

In their last outing, the Panthers drew against the Niagara Purple Eagles, a disappointing result after Pitt had dominated the second half, outshooting its opponent 9-4.

After taking a brief lead on a goal by midfielder Dan Prete, the Panthers quickly relinquished their advantage in the 69th minute when Brandon Kolczynski attempted to clear an errant cross inside the box and mistakenly headed the ball into his own goal.

Coach Joe Luxbacher was visibly upset with his team’s effort Tuesday night and said the game was a step back from Pitt’s draw against conference foe North Carolina State in their previous matchup.

“We can play at a higher level than we did [against Niagara], and that was the disappointing aspect of the match,” he said.

The game ended in plenty of controversy as well, when the head referee didn’t call a potential penalty on Niagara, and then gave Pitt defender Ryan Myers a red card for arguing at the other end of the field.

Myers has been an asset to Pitt this season from his right back position, both defending and moving forward to add to the offensive attack. He will be forced to miss the game against Louisville because of his ejection, per ACC rules.

Shorthanded and without their No. 10, the Panthers will have to defend one of the top offenses in the country. Junior Andrew Wright will likely get more playing time in place of Myers.

“I think we do [contain Louisville] as a team,” Wright said. “Stay compact, that’s one of our principles. Keep the ball in front of us, keep our shape and try to slow them down. I think we’ll be all right.”

Forward Ricardo Velazco and midfielder Ben Strong, who each have seven points this season, lead the Cardinals offensively. Strong has a slight edge in goals with three, while Velazco has contributed two to his team’s tally.

Louisville has played a difficult schedule this season. Its most impressive results both came at home, beating then-second-ranked Maryland 1-0 in the season opener and then romping Duke 5-0 two weeks ago. The Cardinals have yet to lose a conference game this year.

Louisville is sound defensively as well, led by goaltender Joachim Ball. Ball has a save percentage of .846 and has played in all six games, allowing a goal or fewer on five occasions.

Pitt will try to recreate its positive second-half efforts against NC State and Niagara in hope that the team can play a more complete game against the Cardinals. If not, the Panthers will find themselves behind the ball for most of the game and in scramble mode just to clear it out of their own half.

“I think we have to keep doing the thing we did when we came on in the second half [against Niagara],” midfielder Darcy Bloeman said. “We played much harder, we made the right plays, we set the tempo. I think we just need to do that [to be successful].”

Despite the second-half success against Niagara, Louisville represents a different caliber opponent. The toughest team Pitt has played so far was also its first conference loss this season, a 3-0 defeat to North Carolina.

Coming off of three ties in what appeared to be an easy homestand, the Panthers are still looking for their first win since Sept. 7 against Longwood and their first win as a member of the ACC.

Any result on the road against a top 10 team would be a tremendous result and will only be possible with a successfully operated game plan.

“We have to regroup and respond with a strong effort,” Luxbacher said. “Louisville is a very strong team … we have to be at our best Friday evening.“