GREENSBORO, N.C – UNCG Men’s Soccer played the Davidson College Wildcats on Saturday at UNCG Soccer Stadium, losing to a very lucky goal in the sudden death stage of the game. The match was due for a 7:00 p.m. start but was postponed until 8:30 p.m. due to a rather impressively long thunderstorm. This led to a fairly underwhelming attendance rate from the homefield Spartans. The game itself was a very turgid and uninteresting contest that had no deserved winner. UNCG showed individual talents, but very little in the way of decent teamwork.
When the game finally kicked off, it was very quickly apparent that the Spartans and the Wildcats were evenly-matched teams. The Wildcats were awful on the attack—constantly missing the target, scuffing the ball far right or far left of the goal and consistently having their passes intercepted by the excellent Spartan midfield.
The Spartan defense was frustrating to watch. There was a distinct lack of coordination amongst them, as they were continuously running into each other and would crowd the ball, leaving huge gaps that the Wildcats could have easily taken advantage of. Even when they went man-to-man, the tendency to step the wrong way or misjudge the attackers’ intent was a more regular occurrence than eliminating the threat. The only thing that saved the Spartan defense from conceding goals was the Wildcats’ tendency to choke in the penalty box rather than score.
Luckily, the aforementioned Wildcat front two were absolutely abysmal at taking any sort of initiative with the ball. The Wildcat midfield was their strength, as was the Spartan midfield. Both teams’ midfield created chance after chance for their strikers, but to no avail. The Spartan front three were also disappointing, with the notable exception of Faisal Almubaslat.
Almubaslat created plenty of chances and gave the Wildcat goalkeeper plenty of wake-up calls with some well-drilled shots on target.
Despite their less-than-stellar performance, the Spartan forwards did considerably better than the Wildcats. By the end of the game, the Spartans had racked up a total of 13 shots to the Wildcats’ seven. The Spartans had given the Wildcats four corner kicks, and yet had attempted 12. Statistically, the Spartans dominated the game.
On the pitch, however, the game was close. Often enough, the Spartans were barely scrambling a sufficient reply to get the ball out of the Wildcats’ attacking third. Just as often, there were some white-knuckle moments for the Spartan onlookers, as it looked like their team was going to score. Payne McKiver did a phenomenal amount of work creating passes and chances for the midfield to get to him. Unfortunately, McKiver would somehow lose the ball via interception or by being tackled effectively.
After a mostly uneventful first half, things began to heat up towards the end of the second half. At the 72nd minute, Jackson Bracy of Davidson College was given a yellow card for a fairly harmless challenge. The Spartans were continually creating chances and playing around in the box, causing one of the Wildcat defenders to nearly score an own goal.
Things were heating up on the sideline, too; the coaches could be heard getting into heated discussions with the officials over decisions that they were making. Possibly one of the most controversial came in the first half when a Wildcat striker made it into the box, and a Spartan defender slid in to successfully knock the ball out for a corner kick. Initially, the referee pointed to the penalty spot, but was corrected by his sideline official. The Davidson bench was furious and quickly faded into stunned silence.
The game finished painfully for UNCG, with a scrambled goal coming from a well-placed corner four minutes into extra time for Davidson. The disappointment was palpable and obvious in the body language of the UNCG players and coaches.
The Spartans’ next home game is on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 7:00 p.m. at the UNCG Soccer Stadium after UNCG embarks on a road trip to Edinburg, Texas to take on the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley on Saturday.