ORLANDO – A pair of 2-1 victories through the 2023 season’s first weekend have seen the No. 14 UCF men’s soccer team off to a perfect 2-0-0 start, and the Knights now look ahead to their Friday home match against the NC State Wolfpack Sept. 1.
UCF’s (2-0-0) Friday tilt represents the second of five consecutive home matches, a contest in which the Knights will look to secure their first 3-0-0 start in the Scott Calabrese era. The last time the Black and Gold began a season with three straight wins came in 2011, when UCF emerged victorious in each of its first five matches and remained unbeaten through its first seven with a 6-0-1 record to begin the slate. The 2011 Knights would ride their early momentum and advance as far as the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Along with its early 2-0 record has come a top-15 national ranking in the week one United Soccer Coaches poll, as the Knights join six of their 2023 opponents in the rankings, including No. 2 Kentucky, No. 5 Marshall, No. 7 Florida International, No. 17 James Madison, RV Clemson and RV West Virginia.
The team’s strong start has come on the back of stingy defensive play coupled with a balanced offensive attack that has seen each of its four goals come from four different players. After freshman midfielder Saku Heiskanen and sophomore forward Emmanuel Bam both recorded the first goals of their respective careers against then-No. 4/9 Clemson last Thursday evening (Top Drawer Soccer/United Soccer Coaches), veteran forward Lucca Dourado and sophomore transfer Clarence Awoudor recorded their first scores of the season to lift the Knights over Stetson Sunday night.
Dourado broke the ice against the Hatters in the 14th minute via a converted penalty kick, representing the 29th goal and 61st point of his now-four-year Knights career. With the goal, he moved into a tie for 10th place on the UCF all-time career points list, and with his next score will become the seventh player in program history to eclipse the 30-goal mark.
Awoudor, meanwhile, netted his first goal donning the Black and Gold since his transfer from Oregon State. The Saint-Lo, France, native recorded the fourth goal of his collegiate career after scoring three during his debut season in Corvallis, Oregon.
The offensive support bolstered starting netminder Juanvi Muñoz, who with three more saves produced his ninth display in his first 15 collegiate matches with one or fewer goals allowed. The sophomore goalkeeper lowered his career goals-against average to 1.40, which would rank just shy of a tie for 10th-lowest in program history.
The Knights also continued their dominant play on their home field Sunday evening, improving to 34-12-6 in 52 matches at the UCF Soccer Complex under Calabrese since the beginning of the 2017 season.
UCF is in search of the first victory in program history against the Wolfpack (2-0-0), as the Knights are winless in two all-time meetings between the two programs. The Black and Gold will meet NC State for the first time since the 2021 campaign, a narrow 2-1 defeat in Raleigh, North Carolina Sept. 6.
The Wolfpack are also off to an undefeated 2-0-0 start on the heels of a 3-1 victory over Radford in their season-opener and a 3-0 win against USC Upstate. Like the Knights, NC State has also benefited from a balanced scoring attack early in its fall slate, as five different players have netted the team’s first six goals.
Junior forward Luke Hille represents the squad’s early points leader, finding the back of the net in both of the Wolfpack’s first two matches. Graduate student forward Scotty Taylor has notched one goal and one assist in the team’s two tilts as well.
NC State has also supported starting goalkeeper Lucas Hatsios well defensively, as the junior has faced only two shots on goal in the team’s first two matches.
The start time for the Knights’ Friday evening tilt is set for 7 p.m. from the UCF Soccer Complex, during which UCF will don specially-made Canaveral blue SpaceU kits in honor of the team’s first Space Game since 2015.
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