After much regular season success, the Old Dominion University men’s soccer team received a bid for the 2012 NCAA college cup to face University of Maryland, Baltimore County. This was their third straight trip to the tournament and their ninth appearance in the last decade. ODU (11-3-3) and UMBC (11-4-6) had only faced one another twice before, one being a draw, and the other a victory for the Monarchs during the 2003 season. Thursday night the Monarchs took to the pitch on what became a cold rainy evening at home against the UMBC Retrievers.
Both teams played very hard-fought physical games, and at the end of regulation and two overtime periods the match was still a scoreless draw. The Monarchs lost in heartbreaking fashion when the Retrievers won 4-2 in penalty kicks, “I’ve never liked seeing games end like that, it just doesn’t seem to do the game justice,” head coach Alan Dawson said.
He did acknowledge some of the teams struggles offensively. “Penalty kicks are very 50-50, but it’s what it came down to in a very tight game where we didn’t create many clear cut chances,” he said.
Senior forward and co-captain Chris Harmon made his presence felt throughout the game and made the first penalty kick for the Monarchs. “When you go to penalty kicks the skill of the game is lost, doesn’t show who is the better team, but hey, you win some you lose some,” he said. Harmon still praised his team and coaching staff. “Anything can happen in this tournament but the coaches did a great job preparing us.”
Prior to this game the Monarchs had over a 10 day layoff and some of that showed in the first half. Even though they demonstrated good ball control, the retrievers worked very hard to disrupt the Monarchs offensive rhythm. Very physical play was seen early as the Retrievers committed seven fouls in the first half. “We looked a little nervous and maybe a little bit jumpy,” Dawson said.
Even with the slow start some players appreciated the break as the team was a little banged up. Among them was senior forward Yannick Smith who came off the bench. His replacement, sophomore Ivan Millitar, had a very close scoring chance late in the first.
The Monarchs came out more energized in the second half. They created more chances with five total corner kicks as they continued their good ball control. Offensive and midfield play improved as Harmon, Smith, and midfielder Jordan Leblanc created some chances all with shots on goal. “I felt like towards the end of the second we played better, but they were really playing for extra time or even penalty kicks,” Dawson said. The feeling was that extra time could have been avoided. “We just didn’t capitalize and create the chances we needed to,” Harmon said.
The Monarchs saw great play as they have all year from their very versatile goaltender Victor Francoz. Francoz had three very big saves to keep them in the game. He helped the team on both sides of the ball, taking the first penalty kick and even a free kick late in the second half. “I really wanted to take that first kick, it’s something I always work on in practice.”
Coach Dawson was very pleased with the play of his goalie using his skill set as best he could. “This is a guy who is very good with his feet, as we saw he’s got some sweet left pegs and made some very big saves for us as well,” coach Dawson said. Harmon gave a lot of credit to his goalie and his team, “Victor, myself and all the guys played their hearts out obviously it’s not the outcome we wanted but nothing takes away from the experiences I’ve had over these four years.”
By: Matt O’Brien