UVA 2, Pitt 0
PITTSBURGH, PA (Ambrose Urbanic Field) – Pitt’s men’s soccer team endured another tough lesson, losing a hard-fought, physical battle to yet another nationally ranked team, this time at the hands of Virginia, 2-0, at Ambrose Urbanic Field on Friday.
“There’s a couple different levels of athleticism. The physical play of Virginia is at a very high level,” Jay Vidovich, Pitt’s head coach said after the match. “I haven’t seen a team like that this year. I haven’t seen it. We’ve seen a lot of different teams that can hurt you in different ways, but in terms of physicality, they were different.”
The Panthers played to its strengths early in the match, looking very much like the sharper, stronger side in the first 20 minutes, testing a very tough Cavaliers defense that has allowed only one goal all season.
Marcony Pimentel was active near the top of a 4-4-2 formation, where he was situated underneath the Panthers’ top man, and leading scorer Edward Kizza.
Pimentel ripped a shot from distance that banged off the bar, bounced down, but was cleared away by UVA in the 12th minute.
In all, the Panthers recorded four shots in the opening 13 minutes, including two on goal.
Eventually, a physical Virginia team would suck out the energy from Pitt’s attack.
Late in the first half, Pitt’s goalkeeper Johan Penaranda started to get tested.
First, there were consecutive headers coming from UVA’s 6’2″ freshman, Darryl Dike. The second one on the end of a lining free kick forced the freshman goalie to make a quick reaction save. Another corner in the 43rd minute resulted in Prosper Figbe forcing Penaranda into making another lunging effort to keep the match scoreless.
After the first 45 minutes of action, both teams were knotted at five shots and one corner apiece.
“We created some really quality chances in the first half. We could have scored and it would have been different going into halftime,” Vidovich explained.
Despite the match being even in most statistical categories, the Panthers were being worn down, and without a goal to show from a positive early showing, they would find much tougher sledding in the second half.
The Cavaliers turned the second half into a 45 minute clinic on pushing around, wearing down and frustrating a more inexperienced opponent.
Virginia seized the match early in the second half.
In the 52nd minute Cabrel Happi Kamseu broke into the middle of the box and slid his shot past Penaranda for the 1-0 lead.
After consecutive corners, Aboubakar Keita doubled the Cavaliers lead in the 63rd minute, winning a battle for position in a crowded area to beat everyone to the ball. The six-foot-two inch forward bullied his way into the box, even in a mass of bodies had no problem connecting on his header.
Things went from bad to worse for Pitt after the two goals. Virginia’s back line and central midfield were not allowing for Pitt to work the ball effectively through the middle of the field, and really did an exception job of limiting senior Javi Perez from being the dangerous play maker and catalyst to the attack that he has been through much of the season.
Pimentel, who picked up a yellow card in the first half, was booked for a second time in the 75th minute, getting sent off and putting Pitt in a predicament where they would play down a man for the final 15 minutes.
With the lead, Virginia were complacent at times to take hard fouls, mostly in the middle of the field, as they were effective in disrupting the Panthers’ attack and possession. In fact, Virginia ended the match with a 20-9 edge in fouls.
In addition to Pimentel’s red card assessment, Pitt picked up two additional yellow cards, while Virginia had three bookings as well.
Things turned downright chippy in the late moments, reminiscent of last year’s overtime match between the two sides, there was some pushing and shoving after yet another hard foul.
“They (Virginia) found their key moments of momentum and built on it,” Vidovich pointed out. “It was difficult to play, plus the way it was officiated. It made it difficult to play. The physical immaturity, and everything else was difficult.”
Despite the disadvantages in the waning moments of the match, Pitt created some goal scoring opportunities.
Kizza had a point blank chance in front of the right post in the 85th minute, but Virginia’s goalkeeper Colin Shutler denied the close range shot with his fourth, and final save of the night.
“We created very good chances at the end even when we were on our back foot, and if we are healthy and fresher like we were in the first half then we can play with a top team like Virginia.”
The loss drops Pitt to 4-5-0 [1-3-0 ACC] on the season, with all five losses coming at the hands of ranked opponents. The win improves Virginia to 5-0-2 [2-0-1 ACC], as they might be in good position to move into the top 10 by next week.
“I’m happy with our guys. Once again, we had three games in six days and pushed on,” Vidovich reflected on his team’s overall standing. “I think our guys stepped up and fought very hard.”
Up next, the Panthers will continue their homestand as they take on Columbia Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. at Ambrose Urbanic Field.
“Columbia won the Ivy League last year, they were a (NCAA) Sweet 16 team,” Vidovich said. “Sure it’s a grind for us, but this is an opportunity to play another good team, and grow from there.
Pitt’s Starting XI
GK – Johan Penaranda, Jackson Walti, Marcony Pimentel, Alexander Dexter, Jose L. Sena Arbona, Robby Dambrot, Edward Kizza, Javi Perez, Peter Prescott, Nyk Sessock, Chandler Vaughn
UVA’s Starting XI
#1 Colin Shutler, #11 Irakoze Donasiyano, #22 Daniel Steedman, #8 Joe Bell, #30 Robin Afamefuna, #5 Henry Kessler, #6 Aboubacar Keita, #19 Nathaniel Crofts, #17 Ahdan Tait, #20 Cabrel Happi Kamseu, #4 Prosper Figbe.