TAMPA -- On a drizzling Thursday night, USF Men’s Soccer defeated the FGCU Eagles in penalty kicks in the first round of the NCAA tournament. With the Bulls and Eagles scoreless through regulation and two, 10-minute overtime periods, USF was a perfect 5-for-5 in the final penalty kick round to seal the victory.
In the opening minutes USF was productive with its wide play, creating chances early. The Bulls first chance came in the 29th minute when a cross from Lucas Baldin was across the goalie box, but right at Eagles keeper Nathan Ingham.
In the first half USF dictated play, with multiple chances of goal. FGCU did come through with a few dangerous chances of its own. With thirteen minutes left in the first half an Eagles indirect free kick from Federico Crespo was saved skillfully by Bulls goalie Dallas Jaye.
Later in the half, a USF corner kick connected with the head of Ashani Fairclough for a nice shot on target, but the shot was saved by Ingham. USF outshot FGCU 4-1 in the first half.
Second half play was a bit more even. USF’s Roberto Alterio was dangerous early and gave Eagles defenders trouble handling runs into the box. With 28 minutes remaining, Ingham made a save off of a USF free kick delivered by Baldin. In the 72nd minute the Eagles attack picked up momentum and would control play until the end of regulation.
In a scoreless deadlock, the Bulls and Eagles headed to overtime, which consisted of a pair of ten-minute, sudden-death periods before the final penalty kick round.
The first overtime consisted of sparring between the two schools. With twelve seconds left, Baldin bent a beautiful ball rightward around the wall at the lower right corner of goal, only to have Eagles goalie Ingham make a spectacular diving save to preserve the game for his team.
The second half of overtime was again highlighted by a USF direct free kick. Baldin connected with Brenton Griffiths for a nice header toward goal, only to be stopped by another great save by Ingham, who punched the ball just over the crossbar.
Penalty kicks would decide this game after 120 minutes of missed chances and strong saves from both sides. The USF penalty kick lineup consisted of Kevin Olali, Baldin, Gerardo Hernandez, Fairclough, and Leston Paul. Bulls’ penalty takers went 5-for-5, with Ingham guessing correct two out of the five attempts, but unable to keep out either shot. Aaron Guillen delivered the fatal blow to his own team by missing his penalty off the right goal post.
USF advances to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and will host Tulsa on Sunday at Corbett Stadium. Kick-off is set for 6 p.m.