Riding a three-game unbeaten streak, UCF began Tuesday night’s game with pep in its step, hoping to defeat the No. 14 men’s soccer team in the nation.
UCF (3-4-1, 0-0-1 in AAC) came out of the gate with a fast start against FIU (7-2-0, 2-0-0 in C-USA), but couldn’t hold down the highest-scoring team in nation.
“From the opening kickoff, we went right down their throat. We were being very aggressive and kind of proactive, which is what we talked about here leading into this match,” head coach Bryan Cunningham said. “The games come thick and fast, you’ve got to have a short memory and we did some really good things tonight.”
Midfielder Hadji Barry had the first scoring opportunity as he put a shot on goal, 11 seconds into the game, which created a three-shot UCF drive in the first 1:02. He capitalized in the second half, equalizing the game with his team-leading fifth marker of the season.
“[Barry’s] done well, and I think he’s committing himself to what he needs to do to score goals and get assists,” Cunningham said. “Athletically and technically, he’s good enough. He just has to work hard every single time and he’ll get to those spots.”
But FIU’s offense, which tallied 12 goals in the two games prior to its match against UCF, held on and capitalized on two of its 14 shots.
Santiago Patino marked the score board first in the 59th minute with a 30-yard shot. The ball banked off the left post, went across the goal line and nestled its way inside the right post to make it 1-0.
“You can’t give up goals from 30, 25 yards out. The majority of college soccer goals are scored inside the penalty area,” Cunningham said.
Barry knotted it up for the Knights six minutes later off of a cross from sophomore forward David Raizes. Barry put the ball top shelf from point blank past the Panthers’ goalkeeper.
Luis Betancur, who was tied for 27th in the nation in goals going into the match, netted the game winner in the 77th minute with a one-timed volley past Knights’ keeper Zach Biggs.
“It’s unfortunate that we gave up the goal against the run-and-play, but I give our players a lot of credit. We battled back and kept doing things the way we were supposed to,” Cunningham said.
The Knights are back on the road against conference opponent SMU on Oct. 2 at 8 p.m., which will be a homecoming for Dallas, Texas, native and team captain Mason Miller.
Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JHeil11 or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.