The Charlotte 49ers’ tough schedule is beginning to pay some dividends, men’s soccer coach Kevin Langan said.
The 49ers are unbeaten in four games against top-25 teams after stopping No. 23 Clemson 3-1 Tuesday night in front of 1,062 fans at Transamerica Field.
Forward Kyle Parker scored twice and midfielder Tyler Gibson notched what proved to be the game-winner on a penalty kick as Charlotte broke open a tight game during the second half for its second straight victory.
“We’re 30th in the RPI (ratings used to determine postseason seedings) and we should go up,” Langan said. “We’ve played some challenging teams.”
The 49ers (6-5-3) were able to keep the Tigers (9-4-2) in check for most of the game, but the score was 1-1 when Gibson, who also had an assist, blasted a penalty kick after Clemson was called for a hand ball inside the 18-yard box with less than 20 minutes to play.
“It’s the first penalty kick we’ve had this season, and that’s unusual for a team that is as aggressive on the attack as we usually are,” Langan said.
The 49ers wrapped up the win on a crisply executed play during the 73rd minute, with Parker, a former Marvin Ridge standout, taking Will Mayhew’s header from the corner and knocking the ball past goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell.
“The mentality after we got up 2-1 was let’s get a third,” Langan said. “That’s what you like to see. And it was a beautiful goal.”
The wide-open finish was in contrast to a tightly played scoreless first half. Parker’s first goal, on a rebound at the post from a shot by Gibson, gave the 49ers a 1-0 lead in the 58th minute, but it didn’t take long for Clemson to tie.
Manolo Sanchez scored off a cross from T.J. Castner, shooting just inside the post from the goalkeeper’s box in the 66th minute.
The Tigers “are an explosive team if you give them some room, so I thought we were doing a great job of defending in the first half,” Langan said. “But the game needed a goal for some excitement, and once we scored that opened things up a little bit.”
Charlotte improved to 2-0-2 in their games against top-25 teams. They beat No. 12 Coastal Carolina 2-1 on Sept. 6, tied No. 8 Alabama-Birmingham 0-0 on Sept. 23 and tied No. 20 Wake Forest 1-1 on Oct. 1.
The 49ers won’t play again until Oct. 30, when they will resume Conference USA play at Florida Atlantic. The next home match will be at 7 p.m. Nov.2 against Marshall.
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