Men’s soccer falls to American, 1-0

Cavaliers commit 16 penalties and lose their second straight contest

spmsoccerjuliavennitti

Junior Marcus Salandy-Defour's headed effort sailed wide. Coming in the 86th minute it was Virginia's last legitimate scoring chance

Julia Vennitti | Cavalier Daily

In what was slotted to be a manageable midweek matchup against a weaker out-of-conference foe, the No. 12 Virginia men’s soccer team struggled to implement its game plan, break through the opposing defense or get any significant momentum going.

The Cavaliers (7-3-2, 2-2-1 ACC) worked through numerous personnel groups and strategies to try and make an impact, but the American (9-4-1, 2-2-0 Patriot League) defense was stifling, and with quite a bit of luck on its side, held off the Virginia attack and prevailed, 1-0.

“I will say that that’s the best midweek team we’ve played,” coach George Gelnovatch said. “Take nothing away from anyone else, they’re the best. I expect to see them in the playoffs, they’re that good. Especially in the first half, we were not ready for what they brought.

Although Virginia looked to rebound following their weekend loss at Boston College, the offense struggled to create any sort of significant continuity and balance, putting the pressure on its own defense to come up with stops time and again.

“We definitely came out slow today,” redshirt junior forward Marcus Salandy-Defour said. “I don’t know what it was, sometimes on a Tuesday night that happens. Our coach told us to be prepared for it and, there’s no excuse, I think they played better than us.”

While the defense — which has allowed at least two goals in four straight games — held steady in the initial minutes, the Eagles broke through in the 12th minute off a tremendous strike from junior forward Joe Iraola that clipped the inside of the post after being set up with an assist from sophomore forward Vinny Barone.

“It’s a great goal,” Gelnovatch said. “It seems like some of the goals teams are scoring on us are just unbelievable. They’re hitting off the inside the post — two inches the other way and that comes out. We had a couple of those tonight so give them credit, they took their chance really well.”

Although the Cavaliers tried to get back even, their efforts were met with stark resistance from the American defense. Known for outshooting their opponents handily, Virginia lost the shot battle 7-4 in the first half, in addition to conceding two corner kicks.

Additionally, Virginia’s counter-attacking style generally leads to numerous fouls for the other team, many more than the Cavaliers commit. Tuesday night, however, Virginia was called for 16 fouls, while the Eagles only had 12. This carelessness cost the Cavaliers, as they dropped their second game in four outings and barely escaped with wins in the other two.

“We were all disappointed to lose a game like that, to get outworked,” senior midfielder Todd Wharton said. “That’s the message right now, that we’re just getting outworked and people just want it more than us, and we need to take a look at ourselves, myself included, and all the starters, and realize what we have to do to get this back on track.”

In a series the Cavaliers have dominated 17-3, the loss was surprising for Cavaliers fans, but not so for Gelnovatch, who had quite a few words for his team following their lackluster play in the loss.

“As hard as we tried to get [our guys] ready for what they were trying to do,” Gelnovatch said, “we were not ready. The second half was better, for sure, we probably deserved a goal, but give them credit.”

While Gelnovatch and the coaching staff will look to move on, the loss will definitely stay with players as they return to the practice field this week in preparation for the season’s final stretch.

“It was definitely emotional [in the locker room],” Salandy-Defour said. “He said that we’re taking it for granted that we started off the season well. That doesn’t affect any team, that’s going to make them want to beat us more, especially here.”

Virginia has the opportunity to rebound Friday when they host Pittsburgh, in the first of three ACC matchups rounding out the 2015 campaign before postseason play begins.

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