HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The No. 3 UCF men’s soccer team nearly pulled the same rabbit out of its hat for the second time in as many matches at Marshall.
The last time the Knights made the trip to West Virginia for a date with the Thundering Herd, close to 11 years ago on Nov. 3, 2012, UCF and Marshall battled to a scoreless stalemate for 89 minutes and 57 seconds.
Frustration quickly transformed to a state of euphoria that night, when senior midfielder Eduardo Jimenez scored the match’s first, and only, goal with three seconds remaining, lifting the Knights to a 1-0 victory, and the seventh win in 11 all-time meetings between the two programs.
The 12th matchup Saturday evening almost yielded another final-minute Knights goal, as a bit of attempted deception by defender Zane Bubb led to a called-back UCF score with 25 seconds to play in the Knights’ eventual 1-0 defeat to the No. 1 Herd at Hoops Family Field, the squad’s first loss of the 2023 campaign in the first top three matchup in program history.
“We played really well. I’m really pleased with how we came out in the second half and took control of the match, and played to the level that we’re capable of playing,” said head coach Scott Calabrese. “[We saw] how capable we are, that we can go and get results against any team in the country.”
As the clock ticked down past one minute to play and UCF (4-1-2, 0-1-1 SBC) trailing 1-0, Calabrese instructed his whole team to push forward, with goalkeeper Juanvi Muñoz taking a free kick from just beyond the circle at midfield.
Muñoz’s kick made it straight to Herd netminder Gabriel Perrotta, who laid out to secure the ball. Bubb, meanwhile, quietly made his way behind the Marshall (8-0-0, 2-0-0 SBC) goalkeeper in an attempt to catch Perrotta by surprise on an ensuing goal kick.
Bubb did just that, coming from behind Perrotta with a slide tackle to get the ball over to a crashing AJ Seals, who in turn sent the ball into an empty net.
After a brief meeting between the officials and a tablet review, though, the goal was scratched off the scoreboard due to what was ruled an illegal slide tackle by Bubb, preserving the No. 1 Herd’s 1-0 lead.
“The referee decided that Zane had left the field of play, and that he had re-entered, and that was impermissible,” Calabrese explained.
The final-minute frenzy punctuated what was largely an even match on both sides, despite the 1-0 score. The two squads combined for just seven total shots on goal, three for the Knights and four by Marshall, out of a combined 20 shot attempts by the two teams (11 by the Herd, nine from UCF).
Muñoz saved Marshall’s first try on goal in the 18th minute, a bit of a chip shot attempt just in front of the net, before the Herd scored what proved to be the match’s lone goal in the 25th minute.
The Knights’ defensive scheme yielded little else to a program that entered the evening ranked within the top three in the nation in points per game (10.71), goals per game (3.57), shots per game (17.86), shots on goal per game (8.14) and total goals (25). The Herd managed only one more shot attempt throughout the remainder of the first half, and a total of four in the final 45 minutes.
Marshall played the same stifling game against the Knights, though, who in their first road contest since Aug. 24 were shut out for the first time since their 1-0 defeat at Tulsa Oct. 28, 2022, snapping a streak of seven consecutive contests with at least one goal scored.
UCF will look to bounce back from its narrow defeat in its second straight road contest Sept. 29, when the team will face off against the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington. Kickoff for the match is slated for 5 p.m. ET.
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