After losing two straight games in the final minutes of play, the Virginia men's soccer team rebounded with a decisive 2-0 win against an athletic Virginia Commonwealth squad Saturday night in Richmond at Sports Backers Stadium in front of a record 1,776 spectators.
The No. 19 Cavaliers employed a new offensive scheme, using just one forward instead of the typical two, and found success early, scoring against No. 8 VCU in the 22nd minute of play.
Midfielder Ryan Trout created space for fellow mid Drew O'Donnell by switching the ball at midfield and hitting O'Donnell streaking down the left side. After passing off to midfielder Steve Totten, Totten flicked it back to O'Donnell on a textbook give and go for the goal.
"I took off down the line, beat a man, and slid it into Totten, and he slid it back," O'Donnell said. "I saw the far post was open and I one-timed it in."
With the new one striker lineup, the Cavs (7-4-1, 1-2-1 ACC) were able to spring first-year forward Ryan Gibbs and utilize his speed to create scoring opportunities up front. The revamped Virginia offense proved successful as the Cavaliers outshot the Rams, 10-8.
Using only one forward also gave first-year midfielder Kyle Martino a greater role in the offense. Martino, sporting a new, more aerodynamic hairstyle courtesy of his roommate Gibbs, was asked to play as a withdrawn forward to compensate for the use of only one striker.
"The new lineup was very different from what we normally played," Gibbs said. "It allowed us to keep a lot of numbers around the ball."
Still, after facing tight coverage from Ram defenders throughout the game, "I'd be happy to go back to twin strikers, to take some of the pressure off and have someone to run with up front," Gibbs said.
The Cavs iced the win with a penalty kick by Totten in the 55th minute. The Rams (7-3-1) fouled Virginia forward Ryan Trout inside the 18-yd box after he dribbled through to the left corner of the goal. Totten followed with a penalty shot that was tipped by Ram goalkeeper Adam Mead and sent upper 90 for the second goal.
The physical play on both sides led to 33 foul calls, including 18 on the Cavaliers. The second half alone saw four yellow cards - three by Virginia and one by VCU.
"We've been fouled more than any team in the country these first seven games," Cav coach George Gelnovatch said. "Like any high level game in the world, people are competing [and] no team was going after the other."
The victory ended the Rams' nine-game home unbeaten streak that stretched back into the 1998 season. It also marked the Cavs' first road win of the season.
After falling out of the Soccer America college soccer poll last week for the first time in 177 poll weeks, this victory could shift the tide for the Cavs and put them back in the national spotlight.
"In every game we lost, we haven't been playing to our potential," said Trout, who returned to action after missing Wednesday's game after a death in his family. "We've known we're a good team, but we needed a win to prove it to ourselves."