By Nicholas Poblete/Staff Writer
After receiving a bye for qualifying as the first seed, FIU men’s soccer team will face No.5 seed Charlotte 49ers in the semi-final of the Conference USA Tournament on Friday at 4:30 p.m. in Norfolk, Virginia.
In an interview with Head Coach Kevin Nylen before heading to Norfolk, VA, the first year head coach said that every team within the C-USA conference wants to beat the top team.
The 49ers defeated No.4 seed University of New Mexico on Wednesday 1-0. Junior defender Callum Montgomery slotted in a penalty kick in the second half to give Charlotte a ticket to the semi-final.
The Panthers and 49ers faced each other back in September, playing to a double-overtime 2-2 draw.
The September fixture saw freshman Matias Barraza score his first college goal for FIU, a screamer from 18-yards out. Montgomery tied the game in the 23rd minute, followed by a redshirt-junior forward Daniel Bruce goal, to give Charlotte the lead in the 55th minute. Just two minutes later, junior forward Santiago Patiño tied things up for the Panthers, in what was his sixth goal of the season up to that point.
Charlotte was one of four teams throughout the regular season to deny the Panthers all three points. James Madison University, New Jersey Institute of Technology and the University of Kentucky were the other two teams to get a tie against FIU
The men’s soccer team finished their regular season undefeated, with a record of 11-0-4 and a conference record of 6-0-2.
49ers ended their regular season with a record of 7-4-6 and a conference record of 2-1-5.
After the 2-2 draw against Charlotte back in September, Coach Nylen saw the draw as a fair result.
“Charlotte is a very good team,” said Nylen. “Physical and very good in terms of how they pin you, and so it was a constant battle.
The Panthers head into the semi-final on Friday with fresh legs, having played their last game back on Oct. 29, against the University of Kentucky, a match that ended 2-2 after double-overtime.
C-USA Player of the Year, C-USA Offensive Player of the Year and Gold Boot recipient Patiño described the 49ers defense as organized back in September.
“It looks like they have worked really hard in the back part,” Patiño said. “It wasn’t an easy game.”
Charlotte demonstrated their defensive strength against the Lobos of New Mexico on Wednesday, keeping a clean-sheet.
The Panthers head into the semi-final after a week in which many of their members earned conference accolades.
Redshirt freshman midfielder Alessandro Campoy and freshman midfielder Matias Barraza were selected to the C-USA All-Freshman squad.
Patiño, senior midfielder Paul Marie and sophomore midfielder Joris Ahlinvi were selected for the First-Team All-C-USA.
Graduate student defender Marvin Hezel made the Second-Team All-C-USA team, while junior goalkeeper Hugo Fauroux and senior midfielder Donald Tomlinson made the third-team.
In his first year as head coach at FIU, Nylen was chosen as the C-USA Coach of the Year.
The 49ers had one player selected for the C-USA first-team, junior defender Callum Montgomery.