ORLANDO – Before the third-largest crowd in program history, a much-anticipated top five matchup between the No. 5 UCF men’s soccer team and the visiting No. 4 West Virginia Mountaineers more than delivered on its promise.
In their first Sun Belt Conference game, the Knights twice erased one-goal deficits en route to a 2-2 draw against the No. 4 West Virginia Mountaineers Friday evening in front of 1,061 faithful at the UCF Soccer Complex, a regular-season record crowd.
“I thought it was an exciting game, that’s one of the best college soccer games I’ve seen in a long time. I was really happy with our resilience,” said head coach Scott Calabrese. “You have two really good teams who are in our positions for a reason. I thought it was a really enjoyable game.”
Reminiscent of the Knights’ season-opener at then-No. 4/9 Clemson, UCF saw its opposition find the back of the net within the first two minutes of the contest. West Virginia, just 63 seconds into the match, broke the ice courtesy of the Sun Belt’s second-leading scorer, Marcus Caldeira’s header from the far side of the 18-yard box.
Not unlike the Knights’ performance in South Carolina Aug. 24, UCF again found a way to battle back against a ranked opponent Friday night.
Three shots on goal later, Lucca Dourado put the ball in the net for his fourth goal of the season, and first of the game for UCF in the 21st minute assisted by AJ Seals and Timothy Arias, tying the game at one goal apiece.
“It was a physical game, probably one of the biggest games in our history. Ranking-wise, that alone has a different feeling to it, but being in the trenches with your brothers, it’s a gift,” said redshirt-senior Beto Ydrach. “We love when the stadium’s filled like that; unfortunately we weren’t able to get all three points, but against the No. 4 team in the country, coming out with a point is a decent result.”
Shortly after, the Mountaineers found an opening once again, scoring to take its second one-goal lead of the night.
Nevertheless, UCF held its ground and continued pressing, later seeing its efforts rewarded with 12 minutes left in the half. Directly off a corner kick by freshman Saku Heiskanen, fifth-year defender Zane Bubb managed a perfectly-placed header to again tie the score, this time at 2-2, with 11:20 to play in the first 45 minutes.
“It was a bit of a mismatch, I’m a bit bigger than [the opposing forward],” Bubb said. “I knew that when the ball came into where I was, I was going to score and get up and get over him. I’m just happy to help get a point in this tough SBC.”
The goal not only marked his first of the season, but also his first his two seasons as a Knight, finding the back of the net for the first time since April 17, 2021 with Virginia Tech.
The last 45 minutes of the matchup remained stagnant in scoring, but the same could not be said about penalties. The two teams racked up a total of five yellow cards, three on UCF and two called on West Virginia.
The contest marks the second match this season ending in a 2-2 tie and the third straight match that saw the Knights score exactly two goals. UCF, in holding West Virginia without a corner kick throughout the night, produced 12 of its own, a total that shares a tie for 11th-most in a single match at the UCF Soccer Complex.
The matchup between the two teams represented the first since 2018, when UCF emerged victorious at home by a 1-0 final score. In four all-time matchups, the Knights also remained unbeaten by the Mountaineers, moving to 2-0-2 in the first four meetings.
On the heels of UCF’s second draw of the season, the Knights face another challenge in second-ranked Marshall Sept. 23. The last time UCF faced a program ranked in the top two was in 2018 against the UConn Huskies, which resulted in a 2-2 draw. Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.