By Nicholas Poblete/Staff Writer
FIU men’s soccer team defeated the University of Nebraska Omaha 2-0, in the first round of the NCAA Division I Tournament on Thursday night at the FIU Soccer Stadium in front of 1148 spectators.
“Survive and advance,” Head Coach Kevin Nylen said during the press conference. “I’m really proud of this group. Massive team effort tonight against a really good team in Omaha. They are well coached and really difficult to break down. It was a back-and-forth game. Fortunately, we were on the right end of a couple of set pieces.”
After a disappointing elimination in semi-finals of the C-USA tournament against the Charlotte 49ers on Nov. 10, the Panthers were able to rally together and defeat the Mavericks at home.
Omaha came into this match having won the Summit League tournament on Nov. 10, when the Mavericks defeated the University of Denver in penalty kicks. Before the match against the Panthers, Omaha had an overall record of 10-5-3 with a conference record of 2-1-2.
It didn’t take long for the Panthers to take the lead. Senior defender Deshawon Nembhard headed in a free kick from senior midfielder Paul Marie in the 56th second of the match. Nembhard’s goal was his second of the season.
“It was big, I was really happy, I don’t score too many headed goals,” Nembhard said. “From there it was really just about staying focused.”
FIU doubled their lead in the 25th minute of the first half. Marie whipped in a cross to find the head of sophomore midfielder Jordan Machado. Machado scored his third goal of the season.
During the C-USA semi-final match against the 49ers, Marie was taken off in the second half due to an injury. On Thursday night, the senior captain led his team to victory with two assists and a commanding performance.
“I’m pleased with the team performance, it’s a group work,” said Marie. “I helped the team the best that I could.
FIU’s goals in the first half were enough to defeat the Mavericks and advance in the NCAA tournament.
Nylen made three changes to his starting line-up, compared to the game against Charlotte. Due to injuries, sophomore midfielder Joris Ahlinvi and senior midfielder Donald Tomlinson were unable to play.
“We watched Omaha, and we felt that we needed to do a couple things that were different from what we’ve typically done this year, so that’s part of the game,” the first year head coach said. “We had days to train it and the guys were great in regards to it [tactical changes].”
Adding to the injuries of Ahlinvi and Tomlinson, redshirt-freshman midfielder Alessandro Campoy came off in the second half with a knee injury. In the first half, junior goalkeeper Hugo Fauroux was forced to abandon the field with an injury, redshirt-sophomore goalkeeper Daniel Gagliardi was subbed on.
The Panthers ended the night with three shots on goal, seven saves and 18 fouls, receiving four yellow cards.
Omaha had seven shots on goal, nine corner kicks and 15 fouls.
“Credit to them [FIU], they were good off their set pieces. 56 seconds in the match, it’s a little unfortunate for us,” Omaha Head Coach Jason Mims said. “I think it took us a little time to settle down, but after that, I thought we were fantastic.”