Men’s Soccer split its two-game schedule last week as it faced the University of Akron at home and traveled to Philadelphia to face Atlantic-10 foe La Salle University. Despite an overtime loss against Akron, the Rams (5-4, 1-0 Atlantic-10) bounced back and defeated conference rivals La Salle. The Rams return home to go up against UMass-Amherst Oct. 3 at 7 p.m., followed by another home game against Duquesne University Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.
The Rams kicked off A-10 play on the road at La Salle where they defeated the Explorers 2-0 Saturday night, marking the A-10 conference opener for VCU.
It did not take long for the Rams to get on the board as junior midfielder Siad Haji scored on a deep strike to the right side of the goal in the second minute of the match. The tally was Haji’s third goal of the season.
Haji’s goal was the first of only two shots in the first half for the Black and Gold.
Junior midfielder Fortia Munts recorded the second goal for the Rams on a penalty kick in the 72nd minute. The goal was Munts’ first of the season and third of his career at VCU.
Sophomore goalkeeper Mario Sequeira recorded one save in the shutout for the Black and Gold. The shutout was Sequeira’s fifth of the season and 13th of his career.
“I’m very proud of our professional performance tonight,” VCU Men’s Soccer Head Coach Dave Giffard said to VCU Athletics. “For me, this is one of the toughest places in the country to go and get a result. The combination of the field, style of play and toughness by La Salle makes getting a result here a real challenge. After giving [away] so much to the game Wednesday night, this was an excellent result and display of mental toughness.”
The Explorers outshot VCU 6-3, but the Rams held the 3-1 advantage in shots on goal. The Rams also had the advantage in corner kicks, 2-1.
The contest was physical as both teams combined for 22 fouls — the Rams responsible for 13 of them.
In their final non-conference game of the season, the Rams fell to Akron in sudden death overtime, 4-3, Sept. 26 at a rainy Sports Backers Stadium.
“It was a tough one tonight,” Giffard told VCU Athletics. “Our focus has been continuing to grow and develop day-to-day and week-to-week. If you look at the performance in those terms, you have to be pleased with the growth we have made and the progress with the group. Obviously, the emotion of the game makes those lessons tough to process at this moment, but it has to be our focus as we enter A-10 play.”
The match got off to a slow start as the Zips and Rams tested each other defensively. In the eighth minute, Akron forward David Egbo collided with Sequeira as the Rams’ keeper tried to make the save. The foul was charged to the Zips and both players returned to the match.
Sophomore forward Jared Greene put the Rams on top early as he controlled a long midfield pass from sophomore midfielder Simon Fitch to place the ball past the Akron goalkeeper as he came out to cut the angle in the 27th minute. The tally marks Greene’s fourth goal of the season and third in two games.
Akron tied the game in the 40th minute as Marco Milanese scored off a corner kick from Colin Biros.
The Rams answered quickly as junior midfielder Travis Cooke scored from a shot on the edge of the 18-yard box to the bottom right of the goal in the 41st minute. Cooke’s goal was the first of his career with the Rams.
VCU had three shots in the first half, two of which were on goal. Akron had eight shots with two on goal.
During the halftime break, the game entered a lightning delay that lasted one hour and 34 minutes.
Akron came out of the long break firing as Egbo rocketed a free kick off the crossbar from just outside the 18-yard box.
The Zips had two yellow cards within the 57th minute, received by Milanese and Egbo.
Akron’s Diogo Pacheco had a memorable 68th minute as he recorded two goals within ten seconds of one another. The first goal came off a corner kick and the second came as Pacheco took advantage of a bad pass by the Rams.
Redshirt-senior Peter Pearson found the back of the net in the 89th minute as he shot off a deflection from a Haji free kick to tie the match at three apiece. The goal is Pearson’s first for the Rams in his second season wearing the Black and Gold, as he transferred from the University of Virginia, where he was a three-year letter winner.
Pacheco scored the game-winning goal in the 94th minute of the match to complete a hat trick. He only took three shots in the contest — all of which found the back of the net.
Akron had the advantage in corner kicks, 11-3, including eight in the first half. The Zips used two of those opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net, which decided the match.
Sequeira had two saves of the six shots on goal faced from the Zips.
Noah Fleischman Contributing Writer