By: Steve Perhla /Sports Editor
It all came down to one shot.
That was the only thing separating FIU from extending its season to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament or having it end abruptly on its home turf.
And it came down to sophomore midfielder Jared Rose, who stood 11 feet away, in the last of the fifth round of penalty shots with the score tied.
And although it appeared Rose’s shot was saved for a brief second, the ball deflected off Cal-State Northridge goalkeeper Radames Lafaurie and trickled into the net, sending the FIU Soccer Complex into pandemonium, as the Golden Panthers defeated the Matadors 6-5 in front of 591 fans on Nov. 26 to advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
“The goalie guessed [correctly] and should have saved it, but I came out with a goal. I trained with goalkeepers a lot while I was growing up and I learned a technique to throw the keeper off. And I usually put it with enough power that even if [the goalkeeper guesses correctly], it’ll go in,” said Rose.
Rose’s game-winner was set up by FIU senior goalkeeper Roy Rosenberg, who after allowing four consecutive goals in penalty kicks, made the biggest save of the season when he guessed correctly and dove left, saving Cal State midfielder Yossi Raz’s attempt.
“I knew it was the last kick for them and being my senior year, I don’t want to lose. I want to go all the way. The only way was to save that goal,” said Rosenberg.
Added head coach Karl Kremser: “It’s appropriate too in a way that Roy comes out and makes a save. He’s been our most consistent player all year. He’s worked so hard this year. Everytime we’ve needed something big from him, he’s come through.”
The game was played scoreless through 80 minutes, until FIU junior defender Zachary Peoples picked an opportune time to score his first goal of the season.
Off a rebound, Peoples blasted a low shot from just outside the penalty area to the right side of Lafaurie, giving the Golden Panthers a one-goal advantage with less than 10 minutes to play.
“The goal was nasty. Once I hit it, I knew it was in. I just took my shirt off…it was a feeling I can’t describe. I just had butterflies in my stomach and it made me feel like I could fly,” said Peoples.
But just over a minute later, Northridge silenced the capacity crowd when Big West Defensive Player of the Year Edwin Miranda caught the FIU defense off guard and ripped a pass from freshman midfielder Gabriel Montoya past Rosenberg to tie the game at one.
FIU avoided near disaster in the closing minutes of regulation when Rosenberg made a series of season-saving saves, highlighted by a charging save on a one-on-one breakaway with less than five minutes to play.
After the regulation period concluded tied at one, both sides exchanged attacks in both 10-minute overtime periods, but neither team was able to score. FIU was outshot 5-0 in the first overtime, but Rosenberg recorded two saves to keep the Matadors scoreless.
In the second overtime period, FIU nearly stole a goal, when Northridge tried to clear the ball from inside its own goal area, but the attempt ricocheted off one of its own players and bounced directly off the top post.
Penalty kicks followed and FIU scored on all five attempts. Eythor Einarrson, Hendrix Emanuel, Lucas Scudeler and Johhny Pulido all buried their shots to set up Rose, who sealed the deal.
For FIU, it was just a matter of executing what it had worked on the whole season.
“Everyone made their penalty kicks because we’ve been practicing them all year and it paid off,” Peoples said. “We all just took a deep breath and said let’s do what we’ve been practicing.”
With the victory, FIU advances to play defending champion UCLA on the road on Nov. 30. The Golden Panthers fell to the Bruins on the road last season, 1-0 in overtime.
“I feel fortunate to end up in the same bracket as UCLA, because I wouldn’t want it any other way. We know now that if we want to win it all, we have to beat the defending champion,” Peoples said. “It’s a challenge we’re looking forward to.”