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NCAA Men’s Tournament: UCF will try to beat Pitt at its own game

Photo courtesy Pitt Athletics

Shortly after Sunday’s NCAA Tournament second round win, University of Pittsburgh men’s soccer coach Jay Vidovich pointed out that despite his team’s convincing, 6-1 victory against Monmouth, his team still had to overcome some early game jitters.

Once the Panthers settled down, they started clicking on all cylinders, especially in the attacking third.

It was a good win,” Vidovich said via Zoom call after Sunday’s match. “They’re all good wins at this level.”

While Pitt has been ranked in the top 5 in the United Soccer Coaches poll for much of the season, Vidovich’s statement had plenty of vindication when looking over the Second Round results in the NCAA tournament.

Of the top three seeded teams, Pitt had, by far, the most comfortable margin of victory.

No. 1 Clemson, who outplayed the Panthers for a second time this year on April 24, needed to respond to being down 1-0 at the half, with two second half goals to pull away from a tough challenge from American.

No. 3 Indiana, who won the difficult Big Ten, was pushed to the limit by Northeast Conference Champions Saint Francis (NY) in a match that was decided by penalty kicks.

Vidovich, who has been coaching in NCAA tournament for more than two decades, knows that no match is easy and playing on this stage can bring out some anxious moments, especially at the beginning of each game.

“There were definitely nerves there. Guys were nervous, there was some tension early, but they worked through it,” Vidovich said on Sunday night. “We’re still very young, as a program in experiencing these moments. There’s pressure. Expectations.  We haven’t played in two weeks, we were on a different type of surface. But as it went along, we played our way into the game.”

Vidovich also mentioned after the match that he should have a full, healthy roster for the match-up against Central Florida.

With that in mind, and Vidovich having a tactical approach to each match in mind, he will likely continue to roll out a similar starting eleven that looks something like this. 

We know Pitt can score in a multitude of ways — but usually most effectively in getting quickly into transition and into the attacking third.  They’ve also capitalized on numerous set piece opportunities this year, including on back-to-back goals on Sunday.

Pitt will also work players off the bench as part of a specific rotation.

“We’re not bringing guys in to give a blow” Vidovich said after Sunday match. “It’s for tactical purposes. The more pressure on the ball, the better. Luke (Mort) and (Luke) Pep came in to help with that. Everyone else that got in, they’ve done well. Pushed the guys in training, have been very competitive.”

What will be important for the Panthers, is how well they will need to remain organized in the back and in keeping its defensive shape to minimize UCF’s quick-countering ability.  Often times, the Panthers rely on fabulous work of its center backs, Arturo Ordonez and Bryce Washington — and goal keeper Nico Campuzano when they get stretched out in an open-ended match.   As long as they minimize those moments, they should be able to keep the Knights in check.

The Knights have a lot of confidence and will try to beat Pitt at their own game.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Vidovich added. “We’re looking forward to it.”

Scouting UCF


photo courtesy UCF athletics

One of the hottest teams in the country, Central Florida hasn’t lost a match since February 27, at Tulsa.  Since then, the Knights have gone 8-0-1. They finished 7-3 in AAC play and won their respective conference championship tournament.

UCF enters the match with a .749 goals against average, good for 26th in the country. The defense is led by senior goalkeeper Yannik Oettl, who has totaled 52 saves for the year, good for fifth in the country. Oettl’s save percentage (.897) and saves per game (4.73) are good for third and 15th in the nation, respectively. He was awarded CollegeSoccerNews National Player of the Week Apr. 19.

Leading the attack is sophomore Gino Vivi, who leads the team in goals (5) and assists (4). He has tallied 44 shots and 19 shots on goal.

When you see UCF line-up, they’ll come out in what looks like a 4-1-4-1, and like many college teams, will try to dictate terms and create quick scoring opportunieis with a high press.

At the very start of its second round victory against No. 17 James Madison, UCF came out aggressively and it paid off.

Gino Vivi received a cross in the fourth minute from Lucca Dourado and found a way to score the opener, giving UCF the early lead. After JMU got the equalizer, Central Florida showed its resiliency and once again its ability to strike quickly.

This time, UCF wasted no time answering and scored a beautiful goal of their own roughly five minutes later. Vivi worked his way from one side of the pitch to the other and dumped the ball off to Mauricio Villalobos Vega, who fed a beautiful cross just past a defender to an awaiting Dourado, who chested the chance home to put the Knights in front.

“I thought the guys were fantastic tonight,” said head coach Scott Calabrese. “We did well in every facet of the game that we wanted to play well and perform well in. I thought we played really well tonight and I think that is part of why we as a group are as happy as we are. We got the result, we’re going to the Sweet 16, but on top of it we executed at the level we wanted to.”

Below is a look at the third round (Sweet 16) NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament matchups:

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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