On a warm summer night in Charlottesville, the Virginia men’s soccer team faced off against Xavier for its opening game of the season Thursday. The Cavaliers (0-1-0, ACC 0-0-0) displayed impressive control of the game until its final few minutes, when the Musketeers (1-0-0) capitalized on their third shot of the game.
Virginia opened up the game in a 3-5-2 formation — emphasizing attacks into the wider areas followed by crosses into the middle — which included three center backs.The first offensive chance for the Cavaliers was set up in the second minute by junior forward Philip Horton, who won possession from Xavier senior defender Makel Rasheed and was subsequently fouled before momentum could build. Virginia’s free kick led to a header off target from senior defender Andreas Ueland.
Horton continued to show flashes throughout the game’s next moments, striding down the center of the pitch and winning a foul against Xavier midfielder Paul Bogarin in the 15th minute.
After a poor turnover by Xavier junior goalie Cole Jensen, the Cavaliers were awarded their first corner. Junior defender William Citron mustered a shot from the set piece, but nothing came of it. Virginia continued to apply pressure in the Xavier half, with the majority of its attacks coming from the left-hand side led by freshman defender Reese Miller and Horton. The Cavaliers came close to moving ahead in the 25th minute when Miller sent in a cross that Horton came inches away from tapping into the net. Unfortunately for Miller, his impressive debut came to an early close with an injury in the 75th minute.
As the first half concluded, freshman forward David Okorie was substituted and quickly registered two shots, one of which was on goal. That would be the last notable action before the whistle was blown, signaling the end of a goal-less opening period in which Xavier failed to register a single shot. The Musketeers early struggles sprouted from their inability to keep possession in the first half, as the Cavaliers’ suffocating defensive pressure forced several misplaced passes and shaky clearances. As a result, the first period was played mostly in Virginia’s attacking half, although the Cavaliers couldn’t break the deadlock.
To start the second half, Xavier mounted its first decent move when graduate student forward Alejandro Steinwascher led an aggressive counterattack down the right side, which was ultimately halted by Ueland. The contest’s next several passages of play were relatively uneventful until junior forward Leo Afonso took aim from distance in the 53rd minute, sending his effort narrowly over the crossbar. Afonso fired again from close range minutes later, but his shot hit the side netting.
The Cavaliers next big chance arrived from a free kick, when sophomore defender Paul Wiese chipped a cross towards Ueland, who headed on to Horton for a shot just wide. Later, Afonso played an incisive through ball into the box for Miller, setting him up with only the goalie to beat. Quite impressively, Jensen denied the chance yet again.
In the 70th minute, the ball fell fortunately to sophomore forward Kome Ubogu inside the six-yard box. Ubogu turned and fired, but Jensen was alert to parry yet another shot from the Cavaliers, his sixth save of an eventual eight in the game.
Just as the fixture neared its conclusion, Xavier delivered a devastating blow to Virginia following a corner in the 86th minute. Graduate student defender Kendall Allen delivered a cross that found sophomore midfielder Brandon Osterholt, who promptly slotted the ball home to put the Musketeers in front. Junior goalie Holden Brown produced a save from Osterholt's first shot, but came up short on the second from point blank range.
Afonso made a push for a last gasp equalizer, but his shot was deflected as time expired.
The Cavaliers will walk away from this one disappointed, having thoroughly outplayed Xavier on the field and on the statsheet. Virginia registered eight shots on target to just two for Xavier, but it was the Musketeers’ decisiveness in the final third, decisiveness that the Cavaliers lacked, that catapulted them to victory. The loss brings an eight-game winning streak on opening night to a close for Virginia.
“It’s frustrating, but it's early in the season and we are coming at it from the standpoint of not getting too high or too low,” said Coach George Gelnovatch.
The Cavaliers will look to rebound Monday, Aug. 29 at Klöckner Stadium for a non-conference matchup against Rider. The match is set to kickoff at 7 p.m.