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No. 25 Pitt Fights Back for a 2-2 Draw against No. 10 Denver

Photo courtesy Pitt Athletics

PITTSBURGH — No. 25 Pitt faced off against No. 10 Denver at Ambrose Urbanic Field Monday night in another game against a tough, ranked opponent. Pitt fell behind twice, but managed to respond both times to salvage a 2-2 draw.

The Panthers’ (5-3-3) tie against the Pioneers (7-2-4) is the fifth straight game without a win for them. In that streak, they’ve lost twice and drawn three times. This makes it the first instance that they haven’t won a game in this amount of time since 2016 when they went nine games winless, which was also head coach Jay Vidovich’s first season at the helm. The Panthers played four of these games at home as well, signaling a big drop off from the 25 wins from 26 games at home they had prior to this streak.

Vidovich thought that as a whole, the team did not play to the level that they expect to play up to. He also said that his team didn’t push enough on defense or offense to ensure the victory against the Pioneers

“I thought the effort and quality was below our standards,” Vidovich said. “I’ll give some of that to the University of Denver and their squad. Very motivated and collected. I thought our performance was below our standards of what we expect in every which way. Just disappointed.”

The first 20 minutes of the match saw nothing on offense from either side. The only interesting bit of action came when the referee gave a yellow card to sophomore midfielder Sam Bassett for dissent.

Pitt junior midfielder Filip Mirkovic then made a poor mistake in giving the ball away to Bassett in the 28th minute. Bassett, noticing senior goalkeeper Joe van der Sar out of place after the recent pass, took a long shot that crept into the bottom right hand corner for the opening goal.

This made it the fifth straight game that Pitt conceded first, all of those goals coming in the first half.

Panthers midfielder, graduate Lucas Rosa and senior Valentin Noel collaborated for some good passing play in the 36th minute. Noel then laid off the pass to Mirkovic, who found himself with space and took a long shot. That shot flew past first-year goalkeeper Isaac Nehme into the back of the net for the tying goal and also Mirkovic’s third goal of the season.

Van der Sar made a brilliant save in the 41st minute to keep the match level at one. Sophomore midfielder Guilherme Fietosa played a bad ball back that first-year defender Jackson Gilman couldn’t get to. Denver First-year defender Dylan Akau ran onto the great chance and shot it right on goal, but Van der Sar saved it using both of his feet.

The Pioneers created the first chance of the second half. Graduate defender Jake Mecham delivered a great ball in for senior midfielder Aidan O’Toole, whose shot slammed off the right post in the 58th minute.

Sophomore forward, substitute Luis Sahmkow, almost scored in the 68th minute. He rose up for a header off a cross from Mirkovic, but it went wide for a goal kick. Rosa crossed a ball in to the back post in the 72nd minute, which Noel slid and just missed getting to.

Denver retook the lead in the 73rd minute. A cross from sophomore defender AJ Francois came into the box and Gillman kicked it out. Unfortunately for him, he put it right to junior midfielder Ben Smith, who placed a beautiful curling shot into the net with his right foot that froze Van de Sar.

The Pioneers then gave the Panthers a great chance with a penalty kick in the 78th minute. Mirkovic shot on goal, which Ben Smith got to first to take care of it. His first touch was poor and it bounced right off the arm of sophomore defender Jason Belloli, which the referee deemed a handball.

Sahmkow rose up to take the penalty and with great composure, he placed it softly to the left of the goalkeeper for the tying goal.

With only his first goal of the season and second as a Panther, Sahmkow said that he is assured of his ability as a penalty taker and is confident in those difficult moments, even coming on as a substitute.

“Yeah I’ve always seen myself as one of the best penalty takers on the team,” Sahmkow said. “I like to step up to the moment. I just asked for it and I knew it was going in the back of the net before I took it.”

Van der Sar made another great save in the 83rd minute. Denver redshirt forward Ian Smith put in a delicate through ball to Akau, but Akau’s first touch put it out of his reach and Van der Sar used his legs to get the ball out with a great slide tackle.

The Panthers last chance for a winner came in the 89th minute. With a flurry of attacks, graduate midfielder Jackson Walti put in a cross that bounced up for Noel. Noel then took the volley and his shot went off the top side of the right post for a goal kick.

Pitt’s matchup with Denver provides an interesting relationship between the head coaches. Denver head coach Jamie Franks played under Vidovich from 2005-09 when he coached at Wake Forest.

They both enjoyed a lot of success at that time, as the Demon Deacons won two ACC Championships, three college cups and the 2007 National Championship.

“Jamie was a great player for us,” Vidovich said. “Helped us to three final fours, championship, couple ACC Championships and he was a key part of that. He came back and helped us as an assistant coach as well before he went to an assistant coach at Denver. He’s done a great job of leading the program. He’s got a great formula, they’re well coached and he’s done it. He’s taken them to a Final Four, he wins the Summit League most of the time and he’s done a great job.”

Pitt looks to break this winless streak when they travel to Blacksburg, Va. to take on Virginia Tech this Friday, Oct. 14 at 5 p.m.

 

 

 

 

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