College Sports

Charlotte drops C-USA soccer tournament opener to Marshall on penalty kicks

From left, Charlotte 49ers Harrison Steadman pushes the ball away from Marshall's Trevor Starcher during Wednesday’s quarterfinals of the Conference USA men's soccer tournament at UNC Charlotte's Transamerica Field.
From left, Charlotte 49ers Harrison Steadman pushes the ball away from Marshall's Trevor Starcher during Wednesday’s quarterfinals of the Conference USA men's soccer tournament at UNC Charlotte's Transamerica Field. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

Marshall netted all five of its penalty kicks as it slipped past the host Charlotte 49ers in the first round of the Conference USA men’s soccer tournament Wednesday at Transamerica Field. The teams played to a 1-1 tie through regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods.

Charlotte (10-6-2), which shot second during the penalty kick session, scored on its first three attempts. The 49ers’ fourth shooter, junior Brandt Bronico, hit the crossbar, opening the chance for a clinching kick by Marshall’s Rimario Gordon.

On his approach, Gordon faked forward movement twice then scooted a shot to the left side of the goal.

Marshall (8-8-1), the seventh seed, advances to play a semifinal match against South Carolina at 7 p.m. Friday. Florida International and top-seeded Kentucky will play in the 4:30 semifinal.

Second-seeded Charlotte controlled most of the game’s offense, leading in shots 28-7 through regulation and the two overtimes. Marshall registered just one shot during the second half.

Sophomore reserve forward Harrison Steadman gave the 49ers a brief 1-0 lead when he scored his third goal of the season during the 27th minute. Junior Max Rodriguez collected Bronico’s cross and fed a pass to Steadman, who was about 20 yards in front of the goal.

Steadman dribbled toward the goal and Thundering Herd goalkeeper Dominik Reining challenged him by leaving the goal box. Steadman froze Reining by pushing a shot past his right.

Less than two minutes later, Gordon found himself taking on a couple Charlotte defenders on the left side of the goal. Gordon followed some nifty dribbling with a dart to the right corner of the net, avoiding the diving reach of keeper Austin Pack.

“The game (was) played completely in their half,” Charlotte coach Kevin Langan said. “Their goalie probably had a career game. We had chance after chance. The ball has been dropped for us. We went to sleep for probably five minutes after the first half after we scored, which isn’t good enough from us.”

Both teams had good scoring chances in the final 2 minutesm 20 seconds of the first half. Marshall’s Ryan Forde received a long pass and quickly got behind the Charlotte defense. Luke Waechter recovered in time to alter Forde’s shot, which went right of the goal.

The 49ers had their best second-half scoring opportunity during the 76th minute, when sophomore forward Zhuvonte Wilson charged toward the goal from the right and crossed a short pass to Steadman. From 5 yards, Steadman had an opening, but Reining quickly closed the gap with a kick save.

About 15 minutes earlier, Steadman fired a ball toward the net that senior forward Kyle Parker got his head on. The ball shot straight up and Reining cradled it towardpost.

Inside the 55th minute, Charlotte did not capitalize despite registering a flurry of shots within a 30-second span.

Parker, C-USA’s regular-season offensive most valuable player, and Bronico took back-to-back shots inside 10 yards, but both were deflected wide. Matej Dekovic collected a loose ball but fired high over the goal from about 20 yards.

In the day’s first quarterfinal, Daniel Gonzalez and Jamar Campion-Hinds each scored during the final 12 minutes as fifth-seeded Florida International (11-7-1) pulled out a 4-2 victory over fourth-seeded Old Dominion.

Kentucky, the C-USA regular-season champion and ranked 11th nationally, was the tournament’s only team to have a first-round bye.

In the second quarterfinal, Bjorn Gudjonsson scored the only goal during the 78th minute as third-seeded South Carolina, ranked 17th nationally, slipped past sixth-seeded New Mexico 1-0.

The tournament’s championship game is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday.

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