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Knights spoil Clemson’s season opener with come-from-behind victory

Clemson men’s soccer team fell to UCF in their home season opener by a score of 2-1 on Aug. 24.

The No. 9-ranked Clemson men’s soccer team lost its season opener against the UCF Knights at Historic Riggs Field on Friday night, falling 2-1.

Despite some early excitement in the beginning of the game, the Tigers (0-1) could not hold on, with the Knights (1-0) scoring two comeback goals using a man advantage to take their first victory of the season.

Senior midfielder Ousmane Sylla celebrates after scoring the second-fastest goal in program history to give the Tigers an early lead against UCF on Aug. 24. (Aralynn Minnick)

Head coach Mike Noonan and his team came out of the gates firing. Under a minute into the match, the first Tiger attack led to forward Mohamed Seye being fouled by Knights goalkeeper Juanvi Muñoz to gift the Tigers with a penalty.

Midfielder Ousmane Sylla, Clemson’s leading goalscorer last season, slid the ball into the bottom left corner of the net to give Clemson an early lead.

The Knights had plenty of opportunities in the first half that the new-look Clemson defense managed to control. Headlined by new additions Gael Gibert and freshman Pape Mar Boye in the middle, with fullbacks Adam Lundegard and Shawn Smart controlling the incoming wingers.

UCF broke through to tie up the game just before the end of the first half. The ball fell to Knights midfielder Saku Heiskanen, who found space on the right side of the box and curled the ball past Clemson’s goalkeeper Joseph Andema to even the score.

The beginning of the second half saw the game starting to get chippy, with the Orange Wall again getting involved in support of the home team as frustration mounted on both sides of the field.

The Tigers were unable to capitalize on multiple penalty opportunities in their match-up against UCF on Aug. 24. (Aralynn Minnick)

Clemson’s offense struggled to find solid footing as the clock wore on. Six minutes into the second half, midfielder Brandon Parrish found the feet of Seye off of a cross, but the fifth-year senior was unable to get the ball on target.

Four minutes later, Seye would feed Parrish with a crafty pass to get the ball around the UCF defenders and set the senior free on goal, but UCF’s Muñoz was able to deflect the midfielder’s shot to keep the score tied.

The Tigers’ defense had its moments, continuing to stop the attacking Knights in crucial ways. After a lousy pass found the feet of UCF’s Lucca Dourado in the box, Gibert was able to make a key tackle right in front of the goal to prevent a dangerous chance.

However, Clemson also caught a bad break in the middle of the second half. Lundegard drew a red card to bring the Tigers down to 10 men for the rest of the game, a severe disadvantage and a steep uphill battle to take the lead.

In the 68th minute of the game, the Knights broke the tie. A loose ball in the box sent sophomore goalie Joseph Andema out of the goal, and a header from UCF midfielder Emmanuel Bam found an empty net to give the visiting team their first lead of the night.

Despite several free-kick opportunities, Clemson could not equalize, and the Knights controlled the last 21 minutes of the game to steal an away victory.

The Tigers hope to bounce back on Monday against UNC Wilmington at Historic Riggs Field. (Aralynn Minnick)

Head coach Noonan cited Clemon’s early goal for UCF’s comeback victory.

“I thought that it was a typical game in terms of momentum,” Noonan explained. “So we came out, scored, fired up, played for the first 20 minutes and (we) thought it was going to be easy. And Central Florida came to play harder, and (we) took things for granted and wound up with a red card, which changed the game. Unfortunately, that’s sometimes the way soccer goes.”

Noonan and his squad will look for their first win of the season on Monday when they will be back in action against UNC Wilmington at 7:00 p.m. EDT at Historic Riggs Field.

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Griffin Barfield
Griffin Barfield, Asst. Sports Editor
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