ORLANDO – It was a first that won the Knights’ season-opener at No. 4/9 Clemson Thursday evening, and another first delivered the UCF men’s soccer team’s second victory in as many matches to begin the 2023 campaign Sunday night.
After sophomore Emmanuel Bam recorded the first goal of his collegiate career in the Knights’ first match, sophomore transfer Clarence Awoudor netted his first UCF goal in the 84th minute to lift the squad to a 2-1 victory over the Stetson Hatters at the UCF Soccer Complex.
“We thought if we can control the game, hold possession and build up, that we would get our chances,” said head coach Scott Calabrese. “When we did that, we were able to create chances in the way that we normally do, and it ended up being a really good game. It came down to the last 10 minutes of the game, and Clarence hit a banger on top of the box, which was great. We’re happy to win and move on to the next one.”
The match appeared destined for the Knights’ (2-0, 0-0 SBC) first draw since April 15, 2021 as the clock ticked down past 10 minutes to play and the score knotted at one goal apiece, before freshman Saku Heiskanen brought the ball into enemy territory.
Only one pass was needed, one that fed Awoudor near the far corner of the box. The Oregon State transfer dribbled a few paces toward midfield before letting a hard right kick loose that sailed past Hatters (0-1-1, 0-0-0 ASUN) netminder Nicolò Radaelli and into the upper left corner.
The score marked the fourth of his career after a three-goal debut season in Corvallis, and his second game-winner after his tally in the 83rd minute proved decisive in the Beavers’ 2-1 win over Stanford Oct. 27, 2022.
“When I received the ball, I thought ‘I can go inside.’ My best foot is my right foot, and I go inside and I saw the defender. He followed me, and I thought that if I cross the ball on the side where I was coming from, that would be my best option,” Awoudor said. “That’s what I did, and I scored.”
The goal from one of the newest Knights in Orlando complemented a bit of history made by one of UCF’s veterans, as senior forward Lucca Dourado broke the ice in the 14th minute with a converted penalty kick that gave the Knights an early 1-0 advantage.
Dourado’s score, his first of the season and 29th of his career, propelled the São Paulo, Brazil, native past the 60-point mark for his career and into a tie for 10th place on the UCF all-time career points list with 61, a position he shares with Gino Vivi and Rami Vehmas. Dourado now needs just one goal to become the seventh player in program history to reach the 30-goal mark.
“It was great, with a great crowd here. It rained at the beginning but they stuck around,” Dourado said of the evening win. “I’ve been practicing the whole week with Anderson [Rosa] and Zane [Bubb], just getting the confidence because I missed one in preseason. It’s just getting the concentration to put the ball in the net.”
Knights goalkeeper Juanvi Muñoz on the other side produced yet another strong display in keeping his group in the match until Awoudor’s late heroics, limiting the opposition to a single goal for the second straight match to begin the season.
The contest marked the ninth in his first 15 career matches that saw the Valencia, Spain, native surrender one or fewer goals, and the sophomore will enter the Knights’ Sept. 1 tilt against NC State with a career goals-against average of an even 1.400, a mark that would rank one one-hundredth of a point shy of a tie for 10th on the UCF all-time GAA list, after making a trio of saves Sunday evening.
“I think the team’s really connected, and the relationships within the team are very strong,” Calabrese added. “There’s a real commitment from the players to be successful this season, to prepare really well. All those things play into belief, the belief that this can be a really good team that can do something special.”
With wins in both of its first two matches this season, the UCF men’s soccer team will now turn its attention toward a Friday matchup with the NC State Wolfpack as a stretch of five consecutive home games continues. The Friday tilt has a scheduled start time of 7 p.m. from the UCF Soccer Complex.
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