By: Caesar Alva/Contributing Writer
On a dark humid night- Oct. 16, the Panthers (3-5-1) were preparing to taking on the visiting University of Central Florida Knights. After falling short of a victory in their last four games, the Panthers could not afford to fall further behind in the standings.
Meanwhile, the Knights were also searching for a win after going into overtime in their last four games, but not successfully exiting none of them without a win.
Nevertheless, the game picked up quickly, and the Panthers were first to strike. Within two minutes, the Panthers were quick to keep possession and control the midfield. Again, the dynamic duo of junior midfielder Daniel Gonzalez and senior forward Quentin Albrecht were working together. A quick through ball from Gonzalez to Albrecht set him up for a good opportunity on the right hand of the penalty box, allowing him to strike and score.
And just like that, the Panthers were on the board. It was a positive feeling for Head Coach Calabrese to see his team, start the game- immediately, on the right foot.
As the game progressed, the Knights moved all of their lines forward, hoping to tie up the game before halftime. While the midfield got into rhythm, the offense lacked a certain flare to them, despite attacks from junior forward Romario Williams.
In the 13th minute, a quick shot from sophomore defender Juan Benedetty, led to a spectacular diving save from redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Zach Biggs.
Again, the game was continuously fought in the midfield. With new changes in the lineup, including: redshirt freshman midfielder Darren Rios & sophomore (walk-on) midfielder Patrick Lopez, the Panthers were looking to compete for possession in the midfield while securing their backline.
While UCF continued to pressure for the ball, the Panthers were comfortably containing possession while attacking on the lateral sides of the field.
A quick play in the 21st minute, allows for the ball to roll into the left corner of the field which was centered into the penalty box and headed by an FIU midfield, yet rattles the post. This however, was just the opportunity that senior defender Sean McFarlane was looking for. A quick rebound, allowed for the ball to end up in his feet, which resulted in a goal.
And just like that, in less than 25 minutes, the Panthers were in the lead 2-0.
The tension and pressure grew greatly on the Knights. The team became vocal and was looking to steer the ship in the right direction. Even freshman midfielder Walter Dawkins was seen screaming off the top of his lungs communicating.
The back and forth continued, and FIU was able to keep their goal safe with great defensive work from their back 4 defenders.
And, just like that, the 45th minute hit, and the Panthers took their 2-0 lead into the break.
Coming out of the halftime, the Knights continued their game plan of pressuring the Panthers, and it was clear from the first few seconds. However, too much pressure also lead to the Knights exposure to any counter attacks.
Forward Quentin Albrecht continued to feed off of any mistakes or errors, and had multiple shots close to or on target within the first 25 minutes. In fact, Albrect had 3 shots on Target in that time span. The Panthers were still looking to open the gap even greater.
Just like the first half, the game was strongly fought (for the most part) within the midfield. FIU was more than able to compete within the middle third of the field, despite all the pressure from UCF. Spectacular team and Individual play from sophomore Josue España lead to quicker and better touches-which in sequence lead to more possession.
The game was about to end, when an uncalled for foul was called on midfielder Patrick Lopez in the penalty box. UCF forward Romario Williams was able to take advantage and capitalize on the opportunity. And the Knights were able to cut the lead to a goal with only a few minutes to go.
While the attacking threat came from the Knights, the Panthers, were able to stand their ground defensively this time around, and were able to walk out of the 90-minute period victorious. Defense was key; freshman defender Marvin Hezel said, “It was all a result of good defensive work. When we all defend- starting from the top, it makes everybody’s job easier”
After the game, Calabrese was pleased to see the result. When questioned about the line-up changes coach said “I was very pleased to see No. 22 Patrick Lopez fill the role exceptionally well.” He went on to say, “We did very solid work defensively, it was one of our main focuses for the game. And although we slipped slightly in the 2nd half, we were able to end with the win” And that’s what mattered today.
The Panthers picked up a critical win in out–of-conference play and now stand at (4-7-1). With a 10-day gap between this and their next game, the team will use them wisely to rest up and practice.
The next game for the Panthers will be on the road at Huntington, West Virginia when they will encounter the Marshall Thundering Herd at 12 p.m. on Oct. 25.
Photo by Maria Soledad Lorenzino/ The Beacon