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Scouting Report: Pitt continues gauntlet vs top ranked Wake Forest, then host Akron

Photo courtesy Pitt Athletics

Watching the start of the Pitt Men’s Soccer season takes me back to the same talking points people were having at the start of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds season back in March.

The Panthers need to finish matches better because their record does not resemble how well they have played, for most of any given match to start the season, in their draw and even in their losses.

They have seen two goal leads vanish twice in the second half against second-ranked Indiana in the season opener, and against Delaware on Monday.

As we take a look ahead to the upcoming week of matches,  things aren’t going to get any easier as they begin conference play.

Pitt is currently 1-2-1 in non-conference play.

There are seven teams in the ACC who are undefeated right now including Wake Forest, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Duke who are 4-0. As well as Boston College, Virginia and Notre Dame who are 3-0.

PItt is coming off of a 3-3 draw against Delaware Monday night where they saw a two-goal lead disappear as the Blue Hens’ Ryan Mertz (yes — Robbie’s brother!) scored the game tying goal in the 80th minute.

The Panthers had a great chance to win the game in the second overtime on a penalty kick, but Delaware’s keeper Renan Tomazo made a huge save on the opportunity followed up by a second massive save on the rebound to secure the draw for Delaware.

“Gutted to be honest with you, disappointed,” said Pitt Head Coach Jay Vidovich to reporters post game Monday. “Hats off to Delaware, what a tremendous comeback for them to tie it up, but just feel like we just keep shooting ourselves in the foot and we’re our own worst enemy, very disappointed there with what we did.”

Let’s take a look at the upcoming matches this week for the Pitt Men’s Soccer team:

Friday vs Wake Forest (7 pm)

The Demon Deacons opened up the 2019 season with a 2-1 victory over No. 15 UCF and followed that up with three more home victories over Creighton, Dartmouth and Houston Baptist.

The fast start for the Demon Deacons has seen them rise to the top spot in the latest NCAA Top 25 Coaches poll.

“I have liked the collectiveness of the group and how they have been working daily in training,” said Wake Forest Head Coach Bobby Muuss., who took over the program in 2015 after Vidovich left to coach professionally. “We are far from being the team we want to become but the group continues to work hard toward the goals of the group. With us playing on Monday and having to give a day off during the week, preparation will be limited but focusing on how we can get better in all aspects of our game. We are a very young team and will learn a lot for this weekend for sure.”

Calvin Harris leads the way for Wake Forest as he has scored three goals, including two game winners early on this season. Justin McMaster has also tallied two goals for the Demon Deacons this season as well.

“Both have been solid for us from the start,” said Muuss. “We have rotated guys in the front of the group and these two have found ways to find the back of the net early in the season. In the attacking phase of the game we are still looking to find our rhythm but it has been hard with some injuries but these two have certainly made us dangerous in the final third although now playing our better soccer.”

The trip to Pitt Friday night will be their first road contest of the season and their ACC Conference opener as well. Wake Forest and Pitt did not play each other during the 2018 season.

With this match being the opening of conference play on Friday, Coach Vidovich is looking to see how his team will respond to a couple of gut check performances early on this season.

“I want to see if they’re going to grow up and learn their lessons,” said Vidovich postgame Monday. “I want to see if they’re going to be soccer players…it will be a situation to see if they have any resiliency to be honest with you, are they going to step on up because this one (Delaware) hurt.”

If you can’t make it down to the game on Friday, it will be available to watch on ESPN+.

Pittsburgh Soccer Now‘s Mark Goodman will have coverage from Ambrose Urbanic Field and will provide a post-game recap.

Monday vs Akron (7 pm)

There will be no breaks in the schedule this week for the Panthers. They follow up the conference opening match vs the number one team in the country by taking on another familiar foe, the Akron Zips. The Panthers have played Akron the past three seasons. An established program, the Mid-American conference powerhouse program finished the 2018 season as College Cup runner up with their 1-0 loss to Maryland in the final.

With a nationally renown program, the Zips had high expectations coming into the 2019 season.

Akron went 3-0 in the exhibition part of their schedule with victories over Evansville, Charleston and Michigan, but that success has not carried over to the start of the regular season.

The Zips opened up with a 2-0 loss on the road at Xavier and followed that up with a 2-1 home loss to #3 Stanford and a 2-1 road loss at Creighton.

Maybe this time around, Pitt could catch lighting in the bottle, and knock off the Zips?

“I think we had some good periods of play,” said Akron Head Coach Jared Embick told the Zips Digital Network. “For us, first game we’re a little soft with 50/50’s, first and second balls, second game we got into Stanford’s kind of cycle of play and it can be difficult to get out…For us, we always start a little bit slower as we’re trying to learn how to play together, (even though) we return players, our system is based on collective play and movement and creativity, reading each other and that sometimes takes time.”

Akron defeat Pitt 1-0 in their meeting in 2018 at home.

David Egbo, who played at Kiski Prep and is now a junior, and Christian Lue Young have scored the two goals this year for the Zips.

Egbo also leads them in shots attempted with 11.

If you can’t make it down to the game on Friday, it will be available to watch this match will be featured on the ACC Network.

PItt MF Michael Sullivan

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