Men’s soccer moves on
12th seeded Cavaliers advance on Aguilar’s game-winner
The Virginia men’s soccer team defeated Vermont in its NCAA Tournament second round matchup. The Cavaliers (11-3-5) scored a game-winning goal by junior midfielder Pablo Aguilar.
A chilly environment made for a cold-blooded game, with two yellow cards against Vermont in the first 24 minutes of play. Both defenses were stifling, forcing most of the action to occur between the two 18-yard boxes.Though both teams only took four shots total, Aguilar and his team were ready for a tough, physical game.
“This is a really aggressive team, playing balls through the middle and trying to get it to their forwards,” Aguilar said. “But I wasn’t really frustrated, we knew their game was going to be like that. But it was a really tough game, and we did well managing the game to get the tie and not go to PKs.”
Virginia controlled the rhythm of the game in the opening minutes, passing the ball and keeping possession. The Cavaliers attempted to switch the field and look for balls to their speedy sophomore forward Edward Opoku. However, opportunities were few and far between for Virginia, as Vermont’s back line stonewalled the Cavaliers’ attack.
As the half progressed, the Catamounts were able to find a rhythm of their own and create more dangerous opportunities. Their counterattack, led by talented senior striker Brian Wright,
started to put pressure on Virginia’s defense.
The lone exciting opportunity in the first half came for the Catamounts in the 26th minute. Senior right winger Stefan Lamanna stole a back pass attempt by Virginia and quickly crossed it to the top of the box for fellow senior forward Bernard Yeboah. The Italian native was unable to take advantage, however, sailing his shot high over the goal. The physicality of the game was apparent from the beginning, with Vermont totaling 10 fouls to Virginia’s six.
As the second half started, tempo ramped up for both sides. Minutes in, Virginia pushed the pace, putting Vermont on the back foot. In the 54th minute, sophomore midfielder Jean-Christophe Koffi fired a free kick high above the goal in the first of a few important free kicks.
Opportunities were not limited to only Virginia. Vermont also began to put pressure on the Cavaliers. Just three minutes later, Lamanna sent a powerful volley towards goal, forcing junior goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell to make a diving save. After a slew of corners, the match became a back-and-forth battle, with both offenses starting to create dangerous opportunities.
This culminated in the 62nd minute with the game’s first goal. Wright passed Cavaliers sophomore sweeper Sergi Nus and drew two defenders inside the box before laying it off for freshman midfielder Jon Arnar Barđdal, who easily finessed a shot past Caldwell. Wright was a nuisance for the Cavaliers all day, pushing the ball downfield time and time again.
The momentum was quickly halted, two minutes after the goal. Graduate student midfielder Charlie DeFeo picked up his second yellow card, disqualifying him for the rest of the match. After being sent off, Virginia began to take control of the game.
After several close encounters inside the 18, senior midfielder Paddy Foss came off the bench to tie the game in the 76th minute on a free kick on the right side of the field, sending Virginia bench and fans into mayhem.
“I think Paddy’s goal was really important in lifting our morals and getting the tide going,” Aguilar said.
With each side unable to break the tie in 90 minutes, the game went to golden goal overtime.
The first overtime period ended with little action, and only one shot on goal for Vermont. Both teams decided not to sub and go with their original lineups for the second overtime period. This proved to be Vermont’s downfall.
All game, Aguilar had run the length of the field, drawing fouls and creating opportunities for teammates. He caught the Vermont defense sleeping and made a quick move outside the 18, going in and out on his right foot and blasting a shot before Vermont freshman goalkeeper Aron Runarsson could react.
Aguilar sent the Cavaliers into mayhem, as he has done all season. He has scored multiple game-tying or game-winning goals this year, and continues now to carry his team to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. However, he continues to stay humble.
“The whole team has done really well,” Aguilar said. “And every player on our team has helped me achieve what I have to far. I am just excited to see what is coming next.”
Virginia head coach George Gelnovatch is also excited for the future of his team, and ready for what is to come.
“Look, whenever you get that first NCAA win, and especially in that fashion, under your belt, it just puts wind under your sails,” Gelnovatch said. “And that’s what we got.”
Virginia will wait to see if they will battle Stanford or Pacific next Sunday in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.