No. 5 Virginia men’s soccer fell to No. 2 Pittsburgh Sunday night in a 3-2 overtime thriller. After completing a comeback in the final minute of regulation, the Cavaliers (1-1-1, 1-1-1 ACC) conceded the game-winning goal to the Panthers (4-0-0, 3-0-0 ACC) just over two minutes into the first overtime period.
Pittsburgh got onto the scoreboard in the third minute of action when a header from sophomore defender Arturo Ordoñez sent Shutler diving before the ball rebounded off the post to sophomore midfielder Valentin Noel, leaving Noel an open net to tap in an easy goal.
Noel found himself in the right place yet again later in the game after Pittsburgh senior defender Jasper Löeffelsend sent a cross into the box, which deflected off a Cavalier defender and into Noel, who was able to beat Shutler in a one-on-one opportunity.
Although the Panther’s two first-half goals benefitted from some good fortune, the scoreline was still an indication of the run of play. Pittsburgh dominated the half — holding a 10-2 shot advantage going into the halftime break.
However, Virginia did not go away, as the Cavaliers flipped the script in the second half. Working against the clock, Virginia played with a greater sense of urgency, which led to increased pressure on the Panthers’ back line.
Sophomore forward Philip Horton almost netted Virginia’s first goal in the 55th minute when he slipped past Pittsburgh’s defense before having his shot deflected just wide by a defender.
In the 66th minute, Horton got involved again by making a strong run towards the endline before crossing the ball to freshman forward Kaya Ignacio near the far post. Ignacio collected the ball and fired a close range shot over the diving, outstretched body of graduate goalkeeper Nico Campuzano to bring Virginia within one.
Noel nearly completed the hat-trick to put the game away in the 70th minute when he drilled a low shot towards goal as Shutler scrambled to get back in position. Luckily for the Cavaliers, several defenders were in net to clear the ball off the goal line.
Despite continued applied pressure on Campuzano and Pittsburgh’s defense, it appeared that the Panthers would leave Charlottesville with a win on the strength of three second-half saves by Campuzano.
On one final attack, however, Virginia redshirt freshman midfielder Nick Berghold followed his throw-in to receive a neat back-heel pass from Ignacio. Berghold beat one defender before slotting a left-footed shot past Campuzano into the far-side netting with only 49 seconds remaining in regulation — forcing the Cavaliers’ third consecutive overtime match.
For both Berghold and Ignacio, Sunday night’s goals marked the first of their respective collegiate careers.
Despite Virginia’s comeback hopes, Pittsburgh quickly thwarted the Cavaliers’ plans of stealing a victory in overtime. In the 93rd minute, sophomore defender Raphaël Crivello whipped in a corner kick directly onto the head of Ordoñez, who gave Shutler no chance as he watched the ball hit the back of the net.
The loss was certainly disappointing for Virginia fans as the Cavaliers had an opportunity to claim sole possession of first place in the ACC North with a win, and it appeared they might sneak out with a victory given their momentum heading into overtime. Yet, many positives can be taken away from the team’s ability to fight back against a highly ranked opponent.
“I actually felt like we were the better team tonight,” Coach George Gelnovatch said. “You hate to lose and drop the points, and it’s a big game, but I’m taking a lot of positives away. We still have a lot to play in conference play and getting ready for the ACC tournament, and we have a lot to build on.”
The win for the Panthers marked their third consecutive victory over the Cavaliers at Klockner Stadium. For Virginia, their last three home losses all have come at the hands of Pittsburgh — including a 2-0 loss in 2019 that ended the then-No. 1 Cavaliers’ chances of an unbeaten season.
Perhaps more concerning for Virginia is that they have now conceded five goals through only three games of action compared to five total in the regular season of 2019. After losing several explosive scorers from last year, the Cavaliers will need to tighten up defensively if they hope to repeat as ACC Champions.
Nonetheless, Virginia’s strong offensive play in the second half is an indication that the attack is beginning to gel as they figure out how to best use new additions to the roster.
“I do think we’re progressively getting better,” Gelnovatch said. “I’m able to try a few different things with some young guys.”
The Cavaliers will look to rebound Saturday against another strong ACC opponent in Notre Dame. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. in South Bend, Ind., and the game will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.