After the biggest win in recent program history, the UCF men’s soccer team did not let overconfidence get the best of them, defeating Florida International, 2-0, Tuesday night at the UCF Soccer Complex. The Knights improve to 3-0 in league games for the first time since joining Conference USA in 2005 season. The seven overall wins surpass their 2009 total of six as the team lifts its overall mark to 7-2.
FIU drops to 0-2 in C-USA games and are now 4-5 overall.
“Forget about being the favorite, every conference game is tough,” head coach Bryan Cunningham said. “Our focus was on tonight. We kept telling ourselves that this was the biggest game of the year and when we look back at the end of the season we know that this game validated what we did against SMU.”
Sophomore Eduardo Jimenez (San Juan, Puerto Rico) scored the game’s opening goal and the first of his career on a centering pass from Nik Robson (Auckland, New Zealand) in the 44th minute. Robson’s corner kick was returned to the second-year forward, who beat two FIU defenders on the left sideline and centered the ball into the penalty box. After the pass ricocheted off two Golden Panthers, Jimenez pounced on the loose ball and fired a shot to the far corner for the 1-0 lead headed into half.
“All week we said this was going to be a hard game to win,” Jimenez said. “Coach stressed that this game was going to be pivotal to our success the rest of the season. He told me I was going to get my goal tonight and it was an incredible feeling to get it that way.
“It was a momentum shift for us to get the first one. They were coming at us right before half, but we pushed the ball up and I got a chance and it meant a lot to me to score that goal, but I know that it meant a lot for my teammates too,” Jimenez added.
After 23 minutes of midfield play to start the second half, Luiz Yamashita (Sao Paulo, Brazil) scored his first goal as a member of the Knights in the 69th minute. Kevan George’s (Roxborough, Trinidad) long high pass that started just outside the top of his own penalty box landed 20 yards past midfield for the sprinting Yamashita.
The redshirt sophomore, running in an all-out sprint, got behind an FIU defender and corralled the ball. Two strides and Yamashita’s low shot rolled past a challenging Lopez and into the far back corner of the goal for the two-goal advantage.
“The coaches and my teammates have been giving me a lot of confidence,” Yamashita said. “I knew my first goal was coming and I am glad that it came tonight in this game.”
The Golden Panthers’ Sebastian Frings nearly cut the lead in half with a long freekick from 30 yards out in 78th minute. Frings’ kick made its way over the wall, but a diving Shawn Doyle in goal for UCF turned aside the attempt. A rebound attempt from Florian Schwertl seemed destined for an open net, but a scrambling Doyle rushed the shot as it sailed over the crossbar.
Doyle now has four shutouts this season after stopping all three FIU shots that found their way on goal Tuesday.
“Eduardo has had plenty of chances this fall to put the ball in the back of the net,” Cunningham said. “He has been a bit unlucky so it was great to see him score a goal tonight. At the same time Luiz has been fantastic all year. He has put himself in positions and he was finally able to get on the board tonight. I hope now that since both have broken through that it will come a little easier for them to score with the pressure off.”
UCF returns to action on Saturday, Oct. 9 when it hosts Memphis. The Tigers and the Knights will kick off from the UCF Soccer Complex at 7 p.m.