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Pitt Men's Soccer

No. 5 Pitt Men’s Soccer demolishes Howard, 5-0, for first win

Pitt men's soccer

PITTSBURGH — No. 5 Pitt men’s soccer thoroughly controlled their match against Howard, winning 5-0 Monday night at Ambrose Urbanic Field.

The Panthers (1-0-1) get their first win of the 2023 season, after drawing the rival Penn State Nittany Lions last Thursday, in their home opener. The win against the Bison (0-1-0) is the third straight for the Panthers in the series and they have an 8-3 advantage all-time.

“They got the job done,” Panthers head coach Jay Vidovich said on his team’s performance. “There’s some good moments. I thought the game in different areas, maybe not as consistent as everything we’d like, but really happy. Some good goals, some good action going forward. Some things we’ve tried to improve since Penn State, I thought they picked up and did a good job. So yeah. I’m happy with it and I’m excited this many people were able to get playing time and experience college soccer. I think that was a big positive for us.”

Pitt got going early on with a goal in the 12th minute. A poor first-touch from Howard graduate midfielder Roy Henderson landed right at the feet of senior midfielder Felipe Mercado. Mercado would then move forward, find first-year forward Albert Thorsen on his right, who would slot it past Howard sophomore goalkeeper JR Gawel for the first goal of the match.

Junior defender Mateo Maillefaud took a corner in the 20th minute that ended up being kicked right back to him. He floated a ball over the goal and somehow, graduate defender Fabian Grau got his head onto it to score his first ever goal for the Panthers and doubled the lead.

The next goal came shortly after in the 27th minute, as Gawel took down Pitt junior forward Luis Sahmkow in the box for a penalty. Sahmkow converted from the spot for his first goal of the season to make it 3-0.

The three goals Pitt scored are the most in a half since they scored the same in the second half of a 5-2 win over rival Duquesne last October. It is also the most goals they’ve scored in the first half since they scored three against rival West Virginia last August.

The second half didn’t see much action until the final 10 minutes of the game, where the Panthers would score twice.

Sophomore defender Jackson Gilman put in a beautiful long ball that found the sprinting, first-year forward Zahir Dyke. Dyke moved past his defender and ripped a power left-footed shot into the roof of the net to score his first career goal for Pitt in the 83rd minute.

First-year forward Massimo Murania, with time and space, passed to Temple transfer and junior defender Luka Kozomara, who ran into the box and slotted a shot to Gawel’s right to score his first goal for Pitt as well in the 86th minute.

The five goals they scored tonight are the most since they scored the same amount against Duquesne in that win last season. Pitt finished the match with 22 shots to Howard’s two and seven shots on goal to Howard’s one.

As Vidovich mentioned post game, many Pitt players saw the field in the win against Howard, with 19 of the 27 available players making an appearance, and 18 of the 24 available outfield players.

Mercado started the match, in place of fellow senior midfielder Filip Mirkovic, who sat out the Howard game after he got a red card against Penn State.

He played the full 90 minutes and helped the Panthers keep a solid shape throughout the match, preventing the Bison from getting close to goal and helping to create chances for his attacking teammates.

“It was a great win,” Mercado said. “For the first start and the first 90 minutes for this historic program. It’s the honor for me. I’ve worked really hard to get myself here. Great effort for all the teammates who worked all summer for this time. I feel honored to play for the fans at Ambrose Urbanic Field.”

Prior to this season, Mercado played at the Division II level for Charleston University in West Virginia. He played on one of the best in Division II and finished first on his team with eight assists and also scored four goals in 20 matches in 2022.

“The transition to Division I has been tough,” Mercado said. “What the coaches want, the quality of the players, the quality of the other team. It’s been hard, but the competition has been fine. Little-by-little, as we say here, “Kaizen.” Small changes make good changes in the future. So working every day, Nutrition, doing everything I can has been good so far.”

Pitt men’s soccer goes on the road for the first time this season, taking on another Washington, D.C. based team in No. 17 Georgetown on Friday, Sept. 1 at 7:00 p.m.

Mercado is excited for the next match and, along with the rest of his teammates, will be up to take on one of the best teams in the country at their place.

“Georgetown is a big game,” Mercado said. “I’m excited because my parents are going to come watch the game from Colombia, South America. So it’s going to be a great match and I’m going to see my parents. What else can you ask for?”

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