It was what you might expect from a preseason match after both teams have barely had a full-week of training under their belts, but Pitt outlasted neighboring Duquesne, 1-0, in a men’s soccer match at Ambrose Urbanic Field on Sunday evening.
Alexander Dexter‘s header in the 70th minute pulled the Panthers ahead for good in a match that both coaches acknowledged that there’s a lot of work to be done.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Jay Vidovich, Pitt’s head coach said. “It was tremendous exercise with them. It took us a while to get going. Afterwards, we found our legs a little bit.”
While Pitt, as we would expect from a team that flirted with an NCAA At-Large berth last season, would ultimately take command of the match in possession and creating chances, but not before a strong push early from Duquesne’s high press.
“Their first group able to press, and did well. They affected our backs. Closed lot of space and worked very hard,” Vidovich added. “As game wore on — we found seams. I think they should feel better about themselves than last year at this time.”
Duquesne provided some high pressure forcing Pitt’s back line into some mistakes to create the game’s first three shot attempts in the first thirty minutes.
Duquesne’s Chase Brooks was hoping to capitalize on those early opportunities.
“We’re four days into the preseason. It’s about developing relationships on the field. You can see it. It’s close,” Brooks explained. The message to the guys after the game was while you don’t have to be happy about the result. You need to understand that this a process.”
Vidovich wasn’t pleased that it took Pitt more than 30 minutes to generate a shot and a quality scoring chance.
Edward Kizza found the Panthers’ first legitimate chance but Duquesne’s keeper Robbie McKelvey went down to make a nice save. Moments later, Marconi Pimentel Pitt’s sophomore playmaking midfielder who was instrumental in extending a number of possessions, found a quality shot from the top of the box that forced McKelvey into a quick punch save.
In the second half, both teams brought on many new subs, and Pitt’s second group started to impose its will.
In the 56th minute, after a Duquesne pass attempt out of the back was deflected, Pitt forward Alexander Dexter fired a shot from the left side that hit the back of the net, but Pitt were offside.
Dexter had a few more chances. One shot missed right, then after Duquesne defender was called for an apparent handball that might have kept ball from going into goal in 58th minute, Dexter had a penalty kick chance.
McKelvey stopped him cold to extend the clean sheet.
“He had some great experience from last year,” Brooks said, of his red shirt Junior goalkeeper who made 66 saves in 15 games during Duquesne’s 3-13-1 campaign a year ago . “He did a great job for us tonight. We have three goalkeepers that are really talented. I’m excited to see how that pans out for us.”
Finally, Pitt’s persistence paid off, after a few corner chances as Dexter was on the end of a third ball after a corner kick, all headers, as he was there to head it into the goal.
The Panthers came out very much like what we saw a lot of from coach Vidovich’s squad last season in a 4-2-3-1 with two holding midfielders right in front of the back four. Pitt with some new recruits coming in to battle for outside back spots showed some ability to get out wide and really stretching out Duquense for much of the night.
One of those outside backs that saw his first bit of action as a Panther was Chandler Vaughn, a true freshman who has played in the DC United Academy system as well as a part of the United States Men’s National team’s U-17 player pool.
“They’re a very athletic team. They move the ball around well. They have the pace to get behind you. They’re dangerous. They have the ability to play short, but also have the ability to go long. That’s a great combination to have in college soccer,” Brooks said. “If you’re a one-trick pony, you’re going to be found out pretty quick. I think you can see that they’re a little further along in their attacking than we are right now, and that’s fine.”
Despite Pitt’s dominance for much of the match, Duquesne created some decent build-up from the middle of the field, enough to create a few dangerous runs into the box with a pair of shots one that was blocked and another header at Pitt’s second half keeper Alex Steinbach.
Coming off a disappointing season after multiple winning campaigns in his first five seasons on the Bluff, Brooks will draw on this preseason loss as a building block for what’s ahead.
“It’s those moments you have to remember. At this level, we tend to get dragged down at this level by the mistakes. Players remember the mistakes, We have to do a good job of finding the balance,” Brooks added. “Ultimately we have to take confidence from this moving forward that we can play with an ACC opponent and they’re going to make some waves this year.”
Shots – Pitt (11-5)
Corners – Pitt (6-0)
Saves – McKelvey, Duq (6); Steinbach, Pitt (1)
Special thanks to Ed Major for his photo contributions as it appears he really enjoyed being back out here covering soccer.
Hard to believe it’s been a year since I’ve covered soccer. That’s the sport I got my start in photography in. But tonight reminded me why I love shooting soccer more than anything. The unpredictability, the movement, the agility. You just don’t see that in many other sports.
— Ed Major Photography (@edmajorphoto) August 13, 2018