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City Game Takeaways: Panthers shake off the rust and those pesky Dukes

Alexander Dexter and Logan Muck battle in the 'City Game' (Photo courtesy Pitt Athletics)

City Game Takeaways: Panthers shake off the rust and those pesky Dukes

The Pitt men’s soccer team came away from its first match of the spring completing its most important objective, beating Duquesne, 1-0,, improving its overall record in 2020-21 to 8-1.

For Jay Vidovich and his highly ranked Pitt Panthers, this result was a positive building block, as this proved to be a resilient win, but it also left a lot of room for improvement.

On the other hand, unlike Pitt, which had the benefit of playing a Fall season against ACC competition, Duquesne hadn’t played a match since early November 2019.  The Dukes, with 19 new players on its roster, should come away from this match with a sense of confidence as they their own against Pitt.

VIDOVICH EXCITED WITH RESULT 

“I’m really excited with the result,” Pitt head coach Jay Vidovich stated after the match.

“It was important that we were able to find our way into the game as well as the result. We have a lot of work to do, but we kept a clean sheet which is the first of the season, so that was good progress. We found a way to win with some good moments but we have a lot to work on now as we look ahead to ACC play.”

Carrying over from the Fall, the Panthers lined up with a familiar look, but some slight personnel changes.

 

Bertin Jacquessen, who excelled in the Fall was dealing with some nagging injuries and did not start or play in this match. The French native was replaced by senior midfielder Seto Sena, who didn’t play in the Fall, but his return was more than welcomed as he’s been a key contributor to the program in previous seasons. Sena proved to be a solid partner in the central midfield with Jackson Walti,. Sena made a few clever passes, including one ball that found Noel’s feet, but the nation’s leading scorer couldn’t generate a quality shot on a rare opportunity on this day with the ball at his feet and some space in the box.

Jasper Loffelsend’s injury early in the match has to be a little bit concerning, as we saw how valuable he was in the Fall, with six assists, especially when he had to sit out the ACC Championship match and now he came up injured again.  That being said, Brandon Clagette, a freshman who didn’t play in the fall, stepped up and was solid in his debut, even making a few positive advances and setting up a pair of corner kicks.

Also getting the start was senior Matt Bailey on the right attacking wing spot patrolled by Jacquessen in the Fall.  In the 33rd minute, Bailey was shaken up, and replaced by former Greensburg Central Catholic standout Luke Mort, who saw his share of playing time in the Fall.

While Pitt didn’t exactly unload its bench in the match, this match proved how important depth and next man up mentality will be for the Panthers. They handled this pretty well in the Fall, after the departure of Edward Kizza from the program, they had no problem finding solutions in the attack.

Vidovich was pleased to finally look up at the scoreboard to see an opponent held without a goal. For all its accolades in the Fall, Pitt didn’t earn one clean sheet.

Nico Campazano only made one save in this match, but it was a pretty good one to rob Jack Shearer in the 52nd minute.

DUQUESNE BOTTLES UP PITT IN THE FINAL THIRD BUT FOULS PROVED COSTLY 

College soccer stats typically don’t track possession, but Pitt had the ball somewhere around 60-65 percent of the match, but when they entered the final third, they struggled with connecting passes and executing in getting behind a pretty well-organized Duquesne group, which lined up in a 5-2-3 formation.

While Duquesne did a nice job in limiting Pitt’s most dangerous scorers in the run of play (Noel & Petkovic combined for three shots), they also did what they had to do to slow down the Panthers, who are so dangerous in getting forward quickly. The Dukes conceded 14 fouls, allowing for Pitt to take advantage and create three of four shots on frame in the match off set pieces.

One sequence in the 36th minute proved to be costly for the Dukes, as consecutive fouls led to both a close range free kick, then a foul in the box which led to Washington’s penalty kick, which game commentator David Day said could have been somewhat controversial.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the benefit of replay to see Duquesne goalkeeper’s Domenic Nascimben’s foul as he was going for the ball on the free kick delivered by Petkovic,.

A pair of Australian natives stood out for the Dukes on Saturday, as keeper Domenic Nascimben, who only made one appearance in 2019, and in just his fifth career start, was solid in net with four saves. Goodhew, a freshman newcomer, led the Dukes with two shots.

In addition, it was great to see Ryan Landry back on the field. The senior from Shaler had to sit out the 2019 season due to injury, and looked good on the left side, creating a few positive moments, including getting into the box and creating a shot opportunity in the 19th minute.

Senior forward Jack Shearer had his hands full, as the Dukes’ central forward, he drew the attention of Pitt’s strong center back pairing of Arturo Ordenez and Washington. Still, he managed to get what was probably the best chance in the run of play for either club on Saturday, but Campuzano denied his shot heading toward the lower left side of goal with a nice, quick-reaction save.

Sophomore Nathan Dragisich (West Allegheny) roamed a bit, playing higher up at times, but mostly settled into his role in the central midfield play, winning his share of battles against Walti and Sena.

Logan Muck was tasked with trying to slow down Alexander Dexter, and did a nice job as the two battled quite a bit as when Pitt does look to stretch the field, they like to play through Loffelsend and Dexter on the left side.

In the 68th minute, Jordy Lopez was called for a foul on a hard challenge of Sena, resulting in his second yellow card of the match, forcing the Dukes to play down a man for the remainder of the match.

The Dukes stayed pretty disciplined, continuing to clog up Pitt’s passing lanes in the final third and held on to deny any additional goals or quality scoring chances. Despite finding a few chances at times prior to the Lopez ejection, it became apparent that another scoring opportunity would be tough to come by as Pitt handily controlled possession in the final 22 minutes.

Prior to the match, Duquesne’s Head Coach Chase Brooks said that if he could take away positives, find things to build on, and playing to their principles, they would be in good position heading into their A10 opener.

While the result wasn’t ideal, it looks like Duquesne has plenty of reason for optimism moving forward, as they asserted themselves well against one of the best teams in the country.

WHAT’S NEXT?

After this match, things will really count for both teams as they enter conference play.

The Panthers will travel to North Carolina later this week, while Duquesne gets two weeks to prepare for its Atlantic 10 opener against one of three teams in it’s round-robin ‘pod’ — St. Bonaventure.

And don’t think we’re done with City Game for the Spring.  Pitt and Duquesne women’s teams will meet up on March 7 in their edition of the crosstown clash!

 

 

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).

Pittsburgh Division I College Soccer Schedule (Spring 2021)

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