Pitt Panthers men’s soccer team, opening its fourth season of play in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) on Friday night, fell to University of Louisville 2-0 a goalkeeper Mikal Outcalt wasn’t able to secure the ball on two sequences that proved to be the difference in the game.
“Two bad plays, no doubt,” said Jay Vidovich, Pitt Head Coach.
“We had a lot of lessons learned today. We can’t stop playing — and keep getting after it.”
The Panthers (1-3-1 Overall, 0-1 ACC) dropped their 23rd game in four years of ACC competition without a win in its fourth meeting against Louisville (3-1-1, 1-0 ACC)
In the early going, the Panthers kept a tight defensive shape, as the Cardinals attack was mostly kept at distance.
“In the first 10-15 minutes, I thought we were there,” added Vidovich.
“We had a good competitive spirit. We stayed organized as a group.”
That was until Tate Schmitt got behind the Panthers back line — and found himself making a move to the ball on the right end line in the 20th minute.
“First — it looked like he was offside. I don’t know what the officials were looking at. I thought that was a mistake there,” noted Vidovich.
As Schmitt ran toward the goal, with little angle to shoot as he was straddling the end line, Outcalt came sliding out to take the ball away converging with the Louisville forward.
As it appeared that Outcalt was in perfect position to take the ball away, it slipped away as Schmitt managed to take it quickly and redirect it toward the goal box where the ball ricocheted off a pair of Panthers defenders, and into the goal for the 1-0 lead — on an own goal.
“That’s just one of those situations where I have to make a play,” said Outcalt, a redshirt freshman from Strongville, OH.
“I have to bounce back, learn from it. Don’t stress on it and move on.”
In the early going, Pitt forward Kevin Angulo was bringing high pressure to the Cardinals back line, and even blocked an attempt by goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland to play a long ball downfield.
The Panthers had the game’s first shot attempt — as Curren Page sent a ball over to Luca Mellor who snuck inside the right side of the box, unleashing a shot that Louisville’s goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland had to dive to his right to stop.
“We’ll take a goal anytime time anywhere,” said Vidovich.
Heading into the second half, the Panthers were feeling positive.
“Coach said that it’s not the first goal that beats you, it’s the second one,” said Outcalt.
Despite having decent stretches of possession, especially in the second half, the Panthers had few chances in the final third.
Ten minutes into the second half, Louisville took advantage of another Panthers mistake on a long ball into the box that that Outcalt came off the line — and came out to snatch away from Mohamed Thiaw who was breaking behind the defense.
Unfortunately for Outcalt, and the Panthers, Thiaw got inside the Panthers keeper and won the ball. He had an easy poke into an open goal — giving the Cardinals a decisive two-goal lead in the 55th minute.
“Two mistakes by our goalkeeper. As I said to him and to our players after, he’s not going to let that happen again,” said Vidovich.
In the 83rd minute, the Panthers finally had a solid chance to cut the lead in half on a through ball to Angulo — who almost looked surprised to not have been called offside when ball came to his foot. Angulo, who has one goal and one assist this season, had space in the box, took a touch to right, then had his shot blocked by Cleveland who came out to cut off his angle.
Vidovich described his team’s attacking chances as “half chances” — but included Angulo among the players he praised for top notch work rate and effort.
“He’ll keep learning and getting to the point where he’s going to get better when those opportunities present themselves, Vidovich added.
For the Panthers, and their new coach who has won many games in the ACC at Wake Forest, this is a starting point and something to build upon.
“Lots of lessons learned, “said Vidovich.
“It takes a high level of competitiveness in this league. Can’t stop playing. Got to play at high speed. It’s going to be a lot of work in training for us.”
The Panthers next game will be a road game — but not a far trip — to Moon Township to take on cross-town Division I foe Robert Morris on Tuesday.
I will have more on this game — and additional sound bites from the post-game interviews with Jay Vidovich, Mikal Outcalt and Curren Page on the Pittsburgh College Soccer Show podcast that will air on www.MonGoals.com next week.