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Taking a closer look at No. 1 ranked Pitt: Forwards

As the Pitt Panthers prepare to compete in the ACC tournament next week, they remain the top-ranked team in the latest United Soccer Coaches Poll.

We figured this is a great time to provide Pittsburgh soccer fans with an even closer look at the squad that has become the top-ranked team with 5-0 overall record (4-0 in ACC). Pitt has also landed the 1st overall seed in the upcoming ACC Men’s Soccer tournament, which will be played in North Carolina beginning Sunday. 

The Panthers open up the ACC tournament taking on Duke in the quarterfinal round on Sunday, November 15 (6 p.m. kickoff) from Raleigh, NC (at North Carolina State University).   

This week, both Mark Goodman and I will take a deeper look at Pitt’s roster by position. 

First up, are the guys who are responsible to filling the net… the forwards.  

Heading into this season, Edward Kizza built a strong resume in three seasons at Pitt as the team’s primary top man. Kizza begin his senior campaign training with the team and taking part in exhibition matches, where he scored twice.

Then, suddenly, out of nowhere it seemed, that it was confirmed on Sept. 26 that Kizza wouldn’t be returning to the team.

This came during Pitt’s match on September 26.

“Edward Kizza is no longer with the University of Pittsburgh Men’s Soccer Program. No further statement will be given at this time.”

Why exactly Kizza departed the team was not clear.

A native of Kampala, Uganda, Kizza was one of the building blocks head coach Jay Vidovich utilized to help turn this program into a winner. Kizza, a strong, quick forward with great instincts near the goal, was the main goal-scorer the Panthers. His contributions were significant, as he departed the program six goals shy of Pitt legend Joe Luxbacher’s career record of 37, ending the 2019 season with 12 goals and four assists, earning All-South Region Second Team, First Team All-ACC, ACC All-Tournament Team and Scholar All-East Region Team.

As a testament to where this program has come since Vidovich’s arrival, Pitt hasn’t had much of a drop off after Kizza’s departure.

In fact, you could make the argument they’re even more dangerous and more explosive than ever with an even more balanced attack. They lead the nation in scoring, with 17 goals.

Pitt has primarily used two forwards this season: senior Alexander Dexter, who played much of his first three seasons on the left wing or as a left forward in 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 formations.  Vidovich has also put plenty of faith in freshman Bertin Jacquesson.

Dexter has been a durable and dynamic player on the wing for Pitt in his four years with the program. Even as a freshman, the Brooklyn, N.Y. native started 15 of 17 matches and was fifth in  minutes played. Prior to attending Pitt, Dexter spent time with German academy FK Pirmasens prior to coming to Pittsburgh while attending Kaiserslautern High School. He was a two-time European Athlete of the Year, two-time European MVP, three-time European top goal scorer and a team captain.

During the past three years, Dexter’s been a key piece in Pitt’s attack — a player capable of stretching defenses, generating plenty of scoring chances for himself and his teammates.

This goal scored in the ACC tournament game last year, is a great example of Dexter’s pace, solid first touch, passing accuracy and play making ability in transition.

This season, with a talented midfield (also contributing to Pitt’s scoring) and even deeper roster, Vidovich been afforded to feature Dexter higher up in the attack regularly. Second only to Kizza’s offensive production in the previous three years, Dexter’s a creative presence, particularly dangerous in open space and working along tight spaces on the end line, as defenders must account for him for at all times.

So far this season, Dexter’s contributed two goals, two assists and invaluable senior leadership at the top of the attack.

Jacquesson represents a group of players Pitt has brought in from France’s overflowing talent pool (three players on the roster are from France).

A native of Lorrez-Le-Bocage, Jacquesson brings a his own, unique presence to the Pitt attack. Dangerous in 1v1 situations and in open spaces, Jacquesson’s savvy enough to hold the ball up when needed, has made some clever, well-timed runs and a terrific passer.

In the Panthers first game, at Notre Dame, Jacquesson scored a goal and tallied an assist on the evening, as he and Dexter (who also scored and had an assist at South Bend) showed immediate chemistry at the top of the attack.

And, Jacquesson’s already come up with a clutch, game-winner.

In total, the freshman’s already contributed two goals and five assists in his first five games as a Panther — doing a fantastic job of filling Kizza’s big shoes as the team’s leading scorer.

Waiting in the wings, if Vidovich needs to bring in additional players at the forward spot, include a pair of local players, Greensburg native Luke Mort, Connellsville’s Luke Peperak, along with Lois Lara, who hails from Mexico and played with Puma Academy and Brandon Clagette, who was part of Atlanta United’s youth academy program.

These remaining players have played sporadically thus far in a shortened schedule, where it hasn’t been easy for Vidovich to get everyone significant playing time. In a more traditional season, we may have already seen more from them.

Still, as Vidovich pointed out after Pitt’s win in OT at Syracuse, Lara provided some valuable minutes late in the game when other players were fatigued.

Mort, a scoring machine at Greensburg Central Catholic against WPIAL competition, amassed 131 goals and 63 assists in his high school days, didn’t get any playing time in his true freshman year, so he’s now a redshirt freshman, with a full year-plus training and being immersed in Pitt’s program.

Peparak (21 minutes) and Mort (40 min) have been ready when called on this year.

Mort made the most of his opportunity in the Panthers 4-1 win at Louisville on October 23.

In our next post, Mark Goodman will share more on the Panthers’ midfielders.

Alexander Dexter 

Career Highlights:
2017 ACC All-Freshman Team

Career Highs
Goals – 1, 13x; last vs Virginia Tech on Oct. 10, 2020
Assists – 2, 4x; last vs. Howard on Oct. 7, 2019
Points – 4, 2x; last vs. Duke on Oct. 25, 2019
Shots – 5, 2x; last at Notre Dame on Nov. 1, 2019
Shots on Goal – 3, 3x; last at Penn State on Oct. 15, 2019

Season Highs
Goals – 6 (2017)
Assists – 6 (2019)
Points – 14 (2017)
Shots – 29 (2019)
Shots on Goal – 15 (2019)
Minutes – 1,375 (2017)

2019: Played in 20 games, starting in 11 … Led the team in assists with six … Scored three goals on the season, including back-to-back games against Akron and Boston College … Had two multi-assist games against Duke and NC State … Recorded 29 shots, 15 shots on goal and a .517 SOG% … Recorded two game-winning goals, good for second on the team and T-10th in the ACC.

2018: Part of first Pitt men’s soccer team to win an ACC Tournament match in program history … Started 13 games while appearing in 18 total matches … Ranked first on the team in assists (five) and third in points (nine) while tying for third in goals (two) … Recorded three points with one goal and one assist against Temple … Tallied a two assist game against NC State.

2017: Appeared in 17 games, starting 15 … Received ACC All-Freshman Team honors … Ranked fifth on the team in minutes played at 1,375 … Tallied a team-high 14 points via six goals and two assists … Totaled 29 overall shots and 13 shots on goal … Recorded one goal and two assists in a win against West Virginia … Scored game-winning goals against No. 7 Notre Dame, No. 13 Columbia and Loyola.

High School: A native of Brooklyn, Dexter spent time with German academy FK Pirmasens prior to coming to Pittsburgh while attending Kaiserslautern High School … He was a two-time European Athlete of the Year, two-time European MVP, three-time European top goal scorer and a team captain.
Personal: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences major at Pitt.

Bertin Jacquesson 

Career Highs
Goals – 1, 2x; last at Syracuse on Oct. 6, 2020
Assists – 3 vs. Virginia Tech on Oct. 10, 2020
Points – 3, 3x; last Virginia Tech on Oct. 10, 2020
Shots – 4 at Virginia on Oct. 18, 2020
Shots on Goal – 2, 2x; last vs. Virginia Tech on Oct. 10, 2020

Academy: Played for RC Strasbourg.

High School: Attended College Arthur Rimbaud.



John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

PItt MF Michael Sullivan

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