DALLAS Staff reports
The Winthrop men’s soccer team advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time as Enrique Miranda made three saves to lead the Eagles over Southern Methodist 3-1 in penalties, Thursday night at Westcott Field.
The teams were deadlocked at 1-1 after two overtimes as Winthrop (12-8-2) once again scored a late to force the extra time. The Eagles are 6-0-2 in overtime games this season.
“That’s what’s good about this team, they’re like that,” said Winthrop coach Rich Posipanko. “You’re gonna find all these (NCAA) games, unless something goes badly wrong, they’re all gonna be pretty close.”
Miranda, who had been through a penalty shootout in the postseason twice as a freshman, looked like a calm veteran as he turned away three attempts with the last one clinching the Eagles spot in the next round. It wasn’t just the shootout where Miranda came up big as he turned away several good chances by the Mustangs.
Trailing 1-0 late in the game, the Eagles continued to press and made another dramatic comeback as they were able find a way to tie the match. The Eagles were awarded a throw-in and moved everyone into the box as Josh Mort launched the ball into the box. The ball was flicked into the box and found its way to the feet of Marc Segarra who hit a shot that was redirected toward goal and an SMU defender cleared it off the line, but as he cleared it, Achille Obougou jumped in front of the ball and deflected it back into the net. The goal came in the 88th minute and was Obougou’s seventh goal of the season.
Posipanko felt that SMU’s smaller team didn’t really want to mix it up physically with the Eagles, a huge advantage for the less fancied visitors, especially with Mort’s missile-like throw-ins.
“He’s as good as they get at that... it’s a big factor to have,” said Posipanko. “But that was a lot of travel on short notice, so you’ve got to have a lot of luck and good fortune to win.”
The teams were tied 0-0 at the half in large part to Miranda’s good timing. SMU struck early in the second half as Eddie Puskarich hammered home a shot from eight yards out straight on off a square pass from Juan Castillo for the 1-0 lead in the 48th minute.
During the second half, Winthrop had a couple of good chances set up as Obougou and Alex Isern each held off defenders to create some space heading to goal for a one-on-one but SMU defenders were able to make last second tackles to prevent a shot as Obougou and Isern entered the 18-yard box.
Miranda seemed confident heading to the shootout as Winthrop’s kickers were facing Ibarra, the 2012 Conference USA Defense Player of the Year. Alex Isern stepped up and made his shot and Miranda turned away the first attempt from SMU’s John Lujano. The door opened back up for SMU after Obougou’s attempt missed the frame but Miranda came up with another save. Jordi Lluch made his kick for the Eagles to go up 2-0 and Andrew Morales scored for SMU for a 2-1 Eagles lead. Mort stepped up and ripped his shot into the net setting the stage for Miranda to make a save and he did.
Winthrop is now 0-3-2 all-time in the NCAA tournament as it avenged its loss in penalties at Old Dominion in 2006 when the Eagles were two goals up in the shootout. With the regulation tie, Winthrop still technically hasn’t won an NCAA tournament game. That’s mainly semantics though.
“You don’t really care as long as you advance,” said Posipanko. “It’s a tough way to lose, but it’s a good way to win a game.”
Winthrop will now travel to Louisville, Ky., to take on the Cardinals, who earned a national seed of eighth and a first round bye. That game will take place on Sunday at 7 p.m.