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#1 Wake Forest too much for Pitt

Pitt Men's Soccer's Rodrigo Almeida. Credit: Pitt Athletics - Alex Mowrey

#1 Wake Forest too much for Pitt

Sometimes a team creates superior tactics to win a game. Sometimes a few individual players shine and put the result over the top for their squad. Sometimes the more technically proficient team prevails. Sometimes the more athletic team prevails.

On Friday night at Pitt’s Ambrose Urbanic Field, Wake Forest was all of those things rolled into one, and the NCAA’s top-ranked team went ahead and dismantled the Pitt Panthers, 2-0.

The Pitt Panthers played hard and played well, but nothing was going to stop Wake Forest from winning this game. The Demon Deacons dominated the match from wire to wire – controlling possession, making sharp, perfect passes, opening space with clever dribbles, and closing down their opponents relentlessly in defense. Pitt was effective and found ways of getting off shots, but never looked like the stronger team.

The various weapons at Wake’s disposal made it hard for the Panthers to contain them. They couldn’t take the ball off senior attacking midfielder Bruno Lapa. They couldn’t keep pace with wingers Justin McMaster or Machop Chol. They struggled to step in front of the incisive passing of Isaiah Parente or halt the clever dribbles of Aristotle Zarris.

Pitt’s defense can be commended for stepping up to make stops under duress and keeping the game close, as centerbacks Arturo Ordonez and Sito Sena were often asked to make the block or the tackle to prevent disaster for Pitt.

The Panthers in the first half struggled in possession – making a lot of turnovers under pressure, and ultimately electing to boot the ball long in hopes that striker Edward Kizza would latch onto a ball and get a goal against the run of play. After relentless pressure, Wake Forest got their first goal in the 34th minute. Defender Michael DeShields headed in a ball on a pass from Parente on a second-chance play from a corner kick. Wake continued that after up to the halftime break.

Rather than adjust or slow the pace out of the locker room, Wake Forest put their foot on the gas and played faster, more physical, and more pressing to start the second half. It resulted in the Deacs finding a second goal in the 53rd minute, as left winger Machop Chol drove into the box, cut in on his defender, and tucked the ball away in the right corner of the net to make it 2-0.

For the final 30 minutes of the match, Wake stopped pressing and dropped into a defensive 4-4-2 shell that sat deeper and let Pitt have the ball, as long as they didn’t bring it too close to Wake’s net. Just as they thoroughly dominated Pitt when they pressed and attacked, they also dominated them when they sat deep and chose to defend. The tactical shift resulted in a few good looks for Pitt, but Wake would ultimately see those final minutes of the game out for the win. Wake Forest departs Pittsburgh with a 5-0-0 record, while the loss dropped Pitt to 1-3-1 on the season.

Sometimes you lose due to bad luck or moment of brilliance from your opponent, or sometimes things go awry because you had an off night. Pitt can hold their heads up high after this game. They played well. But sometimes, when you face an opponent that is better in so many ways, trying to defeat them is like trying to hold back the waves of the ocean. Whatever you do, however hard you try, they will eventually and inevitably overwhelm you.

Starting Lineups

Pitt-

Arie Amman; Bryce Washington, Arturo Ordonez, Sito Sena, Tim Ekpone; Jackson Walti, Valentin Noel, Braden Kline; Alexander Dexter, Edward Kizza, Josh Hesson

Subs: Nyk Sessock, Rodrigo Almeida, Veljko Petkovic, Matt Bailey

Wake Forest-

Andrew Pannenberg; Alistair Johnson, Michael DeShields, Nico Benalcazar, Holland Rula; Joey DeZart, Isaiah Parente, Bruno Lapa; Justin McMaster, Calvin Harris, Machop Chol

Subs: Aristotle Zarris, Takuma Suzuki, David Wronam Omar Hernandez, Eddie Folds

Box Score

#1 Wake Forest 2, Pitt 0

Goals:

Wake Forest – 34′ Michael DeShields (Isaiah Parente), 53′ Machop Chol

Pitt – None

Cards:

Yellow– 16′ Calvin Harris (WF), 33′ Tim Ekpone (PITT), 71′ Valentin Noel (PITT), 80′ Aristotle Zarris (WF), 87′ Josh Hesson (PITT), 90′ Arturo Ordonez (PITT)

Red– None

Shots/SOG: Pitt 9/4, Wake Forest 12/4

Corners: Pitt 9, Wake Forest 10

Play-by-Play Recap (via twitter)

Mark Asher Goodman is a writer for Pittsburgh Soccer Now, covering the Riverhounds, the Pitt Men's and Women's teams, and youth soccer. He also co-hosts a podcast on the Colorado Rapids called 'Holding the High Line with Rabbi and Red.' He has written in the past for the Washington Post, Denver Post, The Athletic, and American Soccer Analysis. When he's not reading, writing, watching, or coaching soccer, he is an actual rabbi. No, really. You can find him on twitter at @soccer_rabbi

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