TAMPA, Fla. – The UCF men's soccer team won the season's second edition of the War On I-4 in the second overtime on Saturday night, beating the Bulls 1-0. The Knights have won their last four matches and break their tie with the Bulls in the American Athletic Conference table with two matches left on their schedule.
"Every match with USF is intense and competitive," said head coach Scott Calabrese. "Though this was not our best performance, we showed a strong mentality. We displayed our grit and resilience and fought for three vital points. I am proud of the players and we will recover and get ready for the next match."
The match was fairly tame through the first 15 minutes, as just one shot was attempted by South Florida. UCF moves to 5-0-0 this season when holding their opponent scoreless in the first segment of the match.
Things began to pick up shortly after as Jonas Schmalbach shot one off the woodwork and out of play in the 18th minute, nearly giving the Knights the early lead. Schmalbach had another chance on a cross into the box but shot it just over the net.
At the end of the first frame, the Black and Gold were outshooting South Florida 6-3 and had the edge in corners 5-0.
The second stanza saw more of the same. The Bulls had a chance early on but Yannik Oettl came to the rescue with a world-class save, punching the chance over the bar and away from danger.
Both sides had spurts of momentum throughout the second half, but no goal was found. South Florida found something in the 88th minute to their disliking, a red card issued to their Segun Afolabi, sending them down a man for the remainder of the match.
At the end of regulation, UCF had outshot the Bulls 12-7 and had a 7-1 edge in corners. The first overtime went scoreless but saw South Florida take five shot attempts to the Knights' one, granted a few of them weren't close to being a threat. Each goalkeeper made a save in the first installment of extra time.
The Black and Gold got to kick off the second overtime and never lost possession of the ball. A South Florida player committed a foul a minute in, giving the Knights a free kick. UCF lined Anderson Rosa and Gino Vivi over the ball for the service from just inside 30 yards away. Vivi ran by on the fake, leaving it for Rosa who lobbed a fantastic ball right to the net, which found the head of Yoni Sorokin who was running straight for the net. Sorokin was able to put it away between two Bull defenders, sealing the victory for the Knights. Sorokin's goal in the 102nd minute is his fourth of the season; he has scored in each of the last four matches.
Oettl turned aside five shots in the victory and recorded his third straight clean sheet and his fourth of the season. He now stands alone in third place on UCF's career shutouts list with 16 in his career. Oettl climbed a spot in another category, leaping past Sean Johnson into sixth place on the Knights' career saves list. Oettl has been a brick wall this season, stopping 28 of 31 shots that have come his way, good enough for a .903 save percentage.
The Knights have won three of the last four meetings with South Florida, the only blemish to that mark coming earlier this season. Including Saturday night, the previous seven meetings have been decided by a single goal, with three of them reaching double overtime. This was the first occasion UCF had gone to overtime during the 2020-21 season, which is a small number compared to the 10 times they went to an extra frame in 2019.
The Black and Gold end the month of March perfect, winning all four matches on the calendar and outscoring opponents 9-1. UCF is now 3-1 on the road this season.
The Knights lead the all-sports tally in the War On I-4, currently beating the Bulls 30-15. The UCF women's volleyball team also defeated South Florida on Saturday, a 3-0 sweep in Orlando.
UCF is set to host No. 22 SMU as the Knights return home on Friday at 6 p.m. for their final home match of the regular season, meaning it will also be Senior Knight.
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