Men’s soccer wins season opener 1-0

Dramatic late goal by Bell defeats New Hampshire

sp-JoeBell-AWalsh

Sophomore midfielder Joe Bell scored the game-winning goal for the Cavaliers Friday night.

Andrew Walsh | Cavalier Daily

The No. 15 Virginia men’s soccer team won 1-0 in its season opener at home against No. 19 New Hampshire on Friday after sophomore midfielder Joe Bell scored the decisive goal with 21 seconds remaining.

As regulation drew to a close, Bell had the ball at his feet in midfield, then charged past two New Hampshire defenders into the penalty area. Here, he won the game for the Cavaliers — being tripped by a third defender as he shot.

“Time was ticking down — it was in the last minute,” Bell said, “So I thought ‘I have to get the shot off, my coach will kill me if I don’t shoot.”

Though Bell is normally a right-footed player, he had to shoot with his left foot as New Hampshire defenders closed in on him.

“It was on my weak foot, so I just gave it my best go,” he said.

Bell spent his preseason with the New Zealand U20 national team as they won the U20 Oceania Championship. 

“In some ways it wasn’t ideal, I’d have loved to be here with the team,” he said. “Physically I feel very good, obviously mentally a little bit tired.”

The goal capped a fairly even match in which both teams had several chances to score but failed to capitalize.

“New Hampshire’s a very good team,” Virginia Coach George Gelnovatch said.

“I think they’re an NCAA Tournament team.” 

The Cavaliers started the match without senior defender Sergi Nus, who tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in December. Sophomore Henry Kessler, who was initially supposed to start the season as the leftmost of Virginia’s three center backs, filled Nus’ role in the middle, while freshman Aboubacar Keita started on the left of the back three.

Virginia’s first shot came 11 minutes in, when sophomore winger Nathaniel Crofts’ attempt from outside the box curled to the right of the goal.

Six minutes later, sophomore midfielder Linus Fallberg skied New Hampshire’s first shot of the game, not testing sophomore goalkeeper Colin Shutler — who made his first-ever start for Virginia.

New Hampshire came much closer with 20:39 left in the first half, when junior defender Kyle Brewster tried to capitalize on a failed clearance by sophomore midfielder Justin Ingram following a free kick, putting the shot from about 12 yards out just over the crossbar.

With 4:15 to go in the first half, Ingram took a free kick for Virginia in the New Hampshire end. Keita got his head to it, and the header was mishandled by New Hampshire keeper Lars Huxsohl, who was kicked in the face by Kessler as the two competed for the ensuing rebound. 

A minute later, senior winger Simeon Okoro began a Virginia counterattack down the left hand side of the field, attempting a flashy stepover that nearly gave him room to put a cross in, but his cross was deflected out for a corner kick.

The ensuing corner was headed out of the box, but Crofts’ long-range shot was deflected out of play for another corner.

Virginia’s second corner was also initially cleared away, but Keita headed the ball back towards the goal, where it was caught easily by Huxsohl.

The score remained 0-0 at the half, with each team attempting five shots.

Seven minutes into the second half, Okoro ran past New Hampshire senior left back Otto Sahlen, getting room to cross the ball towards Crofts, who was unable to get a clean touch on it. Sahlen suffered an apparent ankle injury on the play and had to come off for freshman Jonny Wolf.

Shortly after, one of two yellow cards for the game was assessed to New Hampshire senior striker Chris Arling, who fouled sophomore wingback Irakoze Donasiyano along the right sideline.

With 18:30 left in the half, New Hampshire junior Donnett Sackie nearly smashed a loose ball in the penalty area past Shutler but missed his chance wide left.

Three minutes later, Bell turned the ball over in his own end, but Arling’s attempt at a breakaway goal was denied at close range by Shutler, making only his second save.

Virginia lost two key players to injury in the last ten minutes of the half. Okoro appeared to hurt his left ankle and was replaced by sophomore winger Spencer Patton, while Ingram went down as Bell scored the winner and came off for sophomore midfielder Max Diamond.

The Cavaliers next play Thursday at Klöckner Stadium against Elon. 

related stories