RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia Commonwealth University Men's Soccer team opened up the 2011 campaign with a 4-1 victory over the United States Naval Academy on Friday night in front of 631 in attendance at Sports Backers Stadium.
The Rams improve to 16-14-2 in home openers dating back to the 1980 campaign. VCU head coach Dave Giffard was happy with the result compared to last year's home opener. "A year ago we were shaking our heads after the first night trying to figure out how we start out the season 0-1 after letting up a 65-yard goal as time expires. Tonight was a much better feeling than that, but we still have some work to do."
While happy with the result, Giffard added the team will take tonight's victory as a learning experience for everyone involved. "I think we were a little too pumped up at the start of the match. We were not connecting passes or as smooth on the ball as I would have liked us to be. I think a lot of that had to do with us being too excited. We will get back and look at the tape and hopefully learn some of our lessons and be able to make some adjustments."
The Black & Gold tallied the game's first goal in the eighth minute of play following a foul by the Midshipmen. Freshman Juan Monge Solano stood over the ball from 35 yards out on the right side of the field; the defender placed a shot on frame which curled over the goalkeeper and into the top left corner of the goal.
The Mids (0-1) responded with a goal just 14 minutes later, as Guy Skord's shot slipped past the outstretched hands of senior goalkeeper Josh Pantazelos.
The Rams recaptured the lead in the 33rd minute, as freshman midfielder Charlie Ahn directed a shot at Navy goalkeeper Gavin Snyder. Snyder staved off the shot, but couldn't control it, allowing sophomore forward Jason Johnson to tally his first goal of the season off the rebound.
The Mids nearly tied things up at 2-2 with less than two minutes to play in the first half, as Navy's Nick Dubee sent a booming shot directed towards the top left corner of the VCU goal. Pantezolos reacted with a sprawling save to turn away the shot, before a VCU defender cleared the ball passed the midfield line to deny the chance the Mids another chance.
The Rams would take the 2-1 advantage into the locker room. VCU outshot Navy 11-6 in the first half and held a 3-0 advantage in corner kicks.
VCU looked to extend the lead early in the second half, but Navy was able to keep the ball out of the net for most of the second half. In the 80th minute, junior midfielder Joseph Haboush's pass slide cleanly through several Navy defenders onto the foot of junior forward Yoram Mwila. Mwila took two touches with the ball before slotting it into the left side of the goal.
Mwila wasn't finished, as the junior gobbled up a turnover by a Navy defender in the 84th minute before unleashing a shot into the left side of the goal for his second goal of the contest.
The Rams finished the contest with a 17-10 shots advantage and earned four corner kicks, compared to just two for the Mids.
Pantazelos earned his first victory of the 2011 season with three saves in 90 minutes of action. Snyder collected the loss, despite making four saves for the Mids.
The Rams are scheduled to take on Georgetown University this Monday in Washington, D.C. at 4 p.m.