Virginia men’s soccer entered Tuesday’s match against James Madison coming off of a 2-0 loss to Duke, so the Cavaliers (3-2-1, 0-1 ACC)) were hoping to gain some momentum in an in-state battle against the No. 9 Dukes (4-0-2, 0-0 Sun Belt). Although Virginia was able to score an early goal and defend well against James Madison, the Dukes fought hard and ended the game with a tie due to a last-minute goal from senior midfielder Rodrigo Robles.
Though the Cavaliers were outshot by James Madison 12-6, both teams had three shots on frame and Virginia was able to both apply pressure on offense and keep composure on defense.
The Cavaliers entered the match fighting hard, taking little time to start pressuring James Madison. Within the first five minutes of the match, junior defender Paul Wiese was able to play a long ball from the back half of the field up to freshman forward Stephen Annor Gyamfi. Gyamfi turned it into a header, putting Virginia on the board for the first and only time of the night — scoring his second goal as a Cavalier. The goal also gave Wiese and senior defender William Citron their first assists of the season.
The teams continued to be fairly evenly matched throughout the first half, with James Madison nearly profiting off of an opportunity in the 28th minute of play when graduate student midfielder Clay Obara had a strong shot toward Virginia’s goal. The effort fell short, however, as Cavaliers senior defender Aidan O’Connor was able to steer it wide.
Virginia nearly added to their lead when senior forward Leo Afonso had a strong shot toward the James Madison goal, but the Dukes’ sophomore goalkeeper Sebastian Conlon was able to stop the effort, ending the half with Virginia up 1-0.
Both teams continued to apply pressure, but throughout the second half, the Cavaliers were only able to get one shot off, as opposed to James Madison’s five.
Virginia suffered when sophomore defender Parker Sloan got his second yellow card of the match, leaving the Cavaliers down one man in the crucial last 10 minutes of play. Although senior goalkeeper Holden Brown had multiple impressive saves, Robles was able to take a cross and score in the last thirty seconds, giving Virginia their first tie of the season.
“Going down a man with ten minutes to play made things really challenging for us and I thought we defended really well despite that until the final play,” Coach George Gelnovatch said. “We will learn from this experience and be ready to go again Saturday.”
When the Cavaliers meet NC State later this week, they will be relying yet again on their strong defense. Virginia’s attacking players have yet to truly announce themselves in 2023, scoring only six total goals across the team’s six games. With the season nearly halfway gone, a slow offense will leave pressure on the Cavaliers’ backline. Virginia has enough quality in defense to make a run at the ACC Coastal Division, but it will take a monstrous second half of the season to see that come to fruition.
The Cavaliers’ match against the Wolfpack kicks off Saturday at 7 p.m. and is set to be streamed on ACC Network.