For all the guts, guile and goal scoring opportunities VCU men’s soccer team had Wednesday night against University of Richmond, it all looked to be going to waste when the Spiders were awarded a questionable penalty kick two minutes into the 2nd half.
That, however, is before senior goalkeeper Gabriel Rodriguez stepped up and saved the shot— and in the process, the game.
Rodriguez— one of only six seniors on a roster of almost 30— saved stupendously on Richmond midfielder Houston Oldham’s 47th minute penalty kick and, mere minutes later, watched his teammates morph the move in momentum into a goal of their own.
Senior midfielder C.J. Gehin-Scott finished off a beautiful ball by freshman forward— and Jamaican international— Jason Johnson in the 51st minute and added an insurance strike in the 70th to give the Rams a 3-1 win over the Spiders and take VCU’s record to 3-1-1.
The tallies take Gehin-Scott’s total to three goals on the year, yet even though the offense won the game for the team, the defense— particularly Rodriguez— saved it.
“Our coach has a pretty good scouting report and told me to go low left… I just followed my instincts and followed the scouting report,” Rodriguez said of the save. “[The chances of saving] penalty kicks are always 50/50.”
The victory means VCU has now taken seven of the last nine from the Spiders; more importantly and practically, the team is now unbeaten in their last four games with three of them being victories.
“On a positive note, we scored three goals and if you score three goals, you’re usually going to win,” head coach Dave Giffard said. “We just made the game very tough; I give Richmond a lot of credit, they’re a well coached, tough team.”
VCU had originally taken the lead in the game’s first true opportunity of the match: a ferocious free kick in the 8th minute from 25 yards out by junior defender Nick Rich that nestled into the upper 90 of the net.
The Spiders responded 15 minutes later when a defensive breakdown from VCU allowed Spiders senior striker Jake Russell in on net, where he coolly finished to tie things up.
“We got caught sleeping; I thought we had our guard down” Giffard said of the goal. “There were some was ways we could have really taken the wind out of their sails and we didn’t… and it became a much tougher game than it needed to be from our perspective.”
The Spiders’ sails finally were deflated once and for all, however, after Gehin-Scott’s opportune strikes. The first was off of a tiring and taxing run; the second was a mere tap in.
In the end, though, they all count the same.
“[The victory over Richmond] was a huge win,” Rodriguez said. “We’re such a young team and we’re still trying to get to know each other… but we hope to get our best shape by conference matches; the matches that really matter.”
The Rams now have a week off till their next match, a week that Giffard will utilize to it’s fullest to continue improving the team; a process that has genuinely just begun.
“The nice thing is we have seven days to get ready for Longwood and then the start of the conference season,” Giffard said. “So there are a lot of lessons to be learned from tonight’s game.