FIU battles to the end vs. the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles

Defender Marvin Hezel celebrates with his teammates after scoring the first goal in the game against FGCU. The panthers beat FGCU 2-1. Maria Lorenzino/ the Beacon

Caesar Alva/ Contributing Writer
The men’s soccer team (2-3-1) returned to the comfort of Miami, preparing to take on a familiar foe in the Eagles of Florida Gulf Coast University (1-3-3).

The Panthers were looking to continue with a positive momentum after defeating San Diego State University days prior. With critical conference games approaching, it was important for the team to find rhythm and continuity under Head Coach Scott Calabrese.

Playing against a familiar opponent like FGCU lit a flame underneath the Panthers and forced them to come out with their best foot forward.

While the first few minutes of the game possession was equally balanced, the game quickly picked up on behalf of the Panthers. The midfield quickly began to move their lines forward and began to pressure the Eagle back line. As the Panthers pressed on, the opposing team used their midfield touches to their complete advantage. The game continued to move on forward with long strides at the wings from both teams.

Nevertheless, in the middle of the first half, both junior midfielder Daniel Gonzalez and sophomore midfielder Nicholas Midttun effectively continued to fight for possession within the midfield. While the rapid counter-attacks from FGCU continued to arrive, the Panthers were able to stand ground with a strong performance from senior defender Sean McFarlane, who consistently closed out any player that ran through the right wing.

After 44 minutes of holding their ground, sophomore defender Marvin Hezel was finally able to break through on a quick counter-attack and score. Although the play developed all so quickly, Hezel stated, “We executed what we practiced. It was connected plays that got us and myself the opportunity to score.”

With that, the Panthers were able to exit the first half with their heads held high.

As the teams entered the pitch, the second half began with an energetic start from the Eagles. Their aggressiveness for ball control and possession increased through multiple clean tackles and slides. However, that did not stop the Panthers’ defense from working together.

In the 52nd minute, a quick juke on a few FGCU defensive players gave senior forward Quentin Albrecht a small opening for a shot, and he took it. Unfortunately, the shot rattled the right corner of the goalpost and neglected to come in contact with the net.

Within six minutes of Albrecht’s shot, the Panthers were possessing the ball and trotting on the top third of field, forcing the Eagle’s to withdraw offensively and begin to safely secure their goal.

However, a sudden corner for the Panthers was seen as an opportunity, and with great feel to it, the team was able score with a header from Midttun, assisted once again by Gonzalez.

Once the second goal was conceded, FGCU had nothing to do but go all out and attack, and they did just that. Being attacked from all sides of the field, the Panthers looked fatigued, and with much to play, FGCU continued to pressure FIU onto their own side of the field.

The game became very aggressive. Panthers fought to defend their goal while the Eagles were looking to score one, at the very least. The game caught some passion and aggression, and a yellow card was accredited to sophomore midfielder Ismael Longo.

That was just the start. After minutes of back-and-forth tackles from both sides and passionate coaches screaming their tails off, another critical foul occurred on the top third of the field. A red card was given to McFarlane, in the 78th minute, after a rough slide tackle. With this card, Panthers had to adjust and realign their formation.

With just over 10 minutes to go in the game, Panthers continued to touch in the midfield, trying their best to keep possession, but the Eagles continued to pressure time in and time out. With all this pressure and one player short, FIU continued to do whatever it took to keep possession, including strong tackles. The aggressions on defense, however, lead to another red card; this time, to sophomore midfielder Josue Espinoza.

At this point, the opportunity was open for FGCU to penetrate and score. In the 85th, junior forward Felipe DeSousa scored on a quick pass from sophomore forward Isaiah Madrid.

However, the Panthers did not lose their composure with only a few minutes left to play. The entire team stood its ground, feeding from the loud roars of the crowd. Within a few minutes, the Panthers were able to hear the much needed 90th minute whistle.

And with this, the Panthers were able to walk out victorious with a score of 2-1.

After the game, Head Coach Scott Calabrese made no excuse for the red cards in the game.

“We always have multiple players that can step in to play their roles,” Calabrese said.

With this victory, the Panthers now have won two games in a row, and are looking forward to continuing this trend against conference opponent University of Alabama at Birmingham on Saturday, Sept. 27.


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