It was the 78th minute of a one-goal City Game, pitting the #25 Duquesne and Pitt Men’s Soccer Teams against each other Monday night at Ambrose Urbanic Field when Panthers midfielder Jackson Walti provided the necessary breathing room despite Duquesne’s protests to uphold an offsides call make by the side referee.
Ultimately Pitt reverted back to its winning ways winning a 5-2 contest over Duquesne.
“For us it is just a big challenge coming in and playing Duquesne, they are on a tremendous role,” Pitt coach Jay Vidovich said. “They are doing tremendous things this year and it was a big opportunity to play a team that has winning ways about them. We are excited to get the result out of it.”
Duquesne meanwhile was playing after hosting Davidson Saturday night and put itself in a 3-0 hole to start play and valiantly attempted to fight back, having the equalizer on captain Maxi Hopfer’s head, but it was not to be.
“We view every moment we step on the field as a learning moment and that’s what this comes down to,” Duquesne coach Chase Brooks said. “Clearly anybody that saw the game understood it’s not a 5-2 game. The second half, we have a lot of positives we can take away from it. We just have to learn from it and move forward. You want every loss to hurt and be something the guys don’t want to feel again. Watching the guys walk off the field, their heads and emotions are in the right place. It’s about taking that and channeling that for good.”
Vidovich went into this contest understanding that Duquesne has been more explosive in the first half of games and communicated to his team that scoring first was crucial.
Pitt, who was playing without Bertin Jacquesson, would create a turnover and quickly turn it into immediate offense. On a deep ball, Duquesne was caught staring at the ball and was unable to catch back up, allowing Jacquesson’s replacement in the starting lineup, Luis Sahmkow to score in the 24th minute.
“That’s the most disappointing part of the first half and I told the guys at halftime that it was our worst 45 minutes of the season,” said Brooks. “We really didn’t create much and they didn’t break us down make, so that works.”
Duquesne was once again caught staring, just 19 ticks before halftime as Valentin Noel double up the Pitt advantage.
“We seized two good moments and had two very good goals there,” Vidovich stated. “Hopefully we can continue to build off that.”
Deer Lakes product Michael Sullivan scored the third goal as the sophomore’s actions helped regain run of play and placed Duquesne in a 3-0 hole, as it was in during last season’s meeting.
“It was (a)… great feed coming down the right side,” said Sullivan. “We strung together 6-to-7 passes, pushed the ball in behind. I just made the run and hoped it got to me and they got the ball to me, so then the job is to put the ball in the back of the night, and I did.”
Vidovich expressed happiness for Sullivan’s hard work being rewarded with a goal and praised his teammates for reacting so enthusiastically for his success.
At that moment, Duquesne was able to regain composure and connection, as Pitt slowly transitioned from scoring the goal. The result was Ask Ekeland’s team-high seventh goal of the season, after which the Dukes darted towards the ball, bringing it back from midfield and speeding play up.
The goal seemed to serve as encouragement for Duquesne to continue attacking and it lead to Pitt’s most notable unforced error of the evening, an own goal in the 60th minute. Once again, Duquesne raced towards the goal to retrieve the ball.
“It’s something we’ve been doing all year with shooting ourselves in the foot and our reactions,” said Vidovich. “It’s something we have to work on, that mental toughness and reaction to the next action to control the moment of the game. We will have to do that if we’re going to continue to have success.”
Both sides were represented well in the crowd and the Duquesne side, which was filled several athletic teams and students reached its crescendo after the score, trying to push the Dukes to find an equalizer.
In the 63rd minute, Hopfer had the ball on foot and found enough space to fire a shot, which was wide of goal.
A minute later, Hopfer had another look but Pitt goalkeeper Joe van der Sar got a hand on it. This shot on goal would represent Duquesne’s best chance as Pitt began to settle back into form and find a second wind.
In the 78th minute, Walti scored a goal and while Pitt celebrated, Duquesne protested.
Duquesne, which opined that multiple potential penalty kick opportunities and handball opportunities were missed all collectively darted towards the side referee who had his flag up for an offsides call, but withdrew that stance, allowing the goal.
It was frustrating enough for the Duquesne side that even after the game went final, assistant coach Adam Mitchell spoke to the officiating crew at length.
“People are humans and humans are going to make mistakes, the problem is they seem to happen a lot here and it’s never for us,” Brooks said. “It’s taking that emotion and trying to use it in a positive way. You can see it from the highest levels of soccer on down, it’s not always perfect but we try to do it and stand up for our team.”
As was the case at the end of the first half, Pitt added a final goal inside of the closing minute, North Allegheny’s Josh Luchini added a goal, to send the home side’s fans away happy.
With Pitt triumphing, it enjoyed the victory, while several Duquesne members crouched and slowly retreated to its side.
Despite having just played Saturday, Duquesne never appeared to be a tired side and expressed a desire to play Pitt, with this being the only open date for both to play.
By all accounts, there is a desire for this game to continue being played.
“It’s always big to play against Duquesne, being from Pittsburgh it’s always been a big game,” said Sullivan. “I’ve been watching since I’ve been 8-to-10 years old. Pitt plays Duquesne and everyone in the city wants to come out and watch. It would be awesome (to continue).”
For now, both teams will look to turn the page as Pitt is at Duke Friday, and Duquesne hosts Fordham for its senior day Saturday.
Duquesne starters (10-2-3/4-0-2 A-10)- Domenic Nascimben (GK), Christoffer Vie Angell, Jesper Moksnes, Torge Witteborg, Maxi Hopfer, Jacob Casha, Harper Cook, Anthony Harding, Nate Dragisich, Ask Ekeland, Cameron Territo
Pitt starters (7-3-3/3-2-1 ACC)- Joe van der Sar (GK), Jackson Gilman, Lucas Rosa, Valentin Noel, Rodrigo Almeida, Ideal Shefqeti, Henrique Gallina, Luis Sahmkow, Filip Mirkovic, Jackson Walti, Michael Sullivan
Goals- Luis Sahmkow PIT 3rd 24′, Valentin Noel PIT 6th 44′, Michael Sullivan PIT 1st 54′, Ask Ekeland DUQ 7th 54′, Own Goal DUQ TEAM 60′, Jackson Walti PIT 1st 79′, Josh Luchini PIT 3rd 89′
Yellow Cards- Harper Cook DUQ 33′, Anthony Harding DUQ 46′, Jesper Moksnes DUQ 57′, Yanis Leerman PIT 78′, Noah Hall PIT 83′, Jacob Casha DUQ 88′
Shots- Duquesne 16 (4 on frame) Pitt 15 (6 on frame)