Two goals on each side of half help UK extend unbeaten run
EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Two goals before half, and a three-goal onslaught in the second period gave the Kentucky men’s soccer team, a 5-1 win at Evansville on a rainy Wednesday night at McCutchan Stadium.
The win was Kentucky’s third straight; it’s longest streak of the season and extended the team’s unbeaten run to five. The Wildcats improved to 7-3-3 (2-0-2 Conference USA) on the year, while Evansville fell to 4-7-1.
“It’s always nice to score that many goals and to get lots of different scorers involved,” UK head coach Johan Cedergren said. “It’s also nice to get everyone that travelled playing time. This was Noah Hutchins’ first minutes of the year and Stuart Ford’s first competitive minutes in goal.
“It’s nice to do that. Preparing for Evansville, watching them on tape, they have a couple of guys who are very special. We tried to get the guys fired up in different ways to try to stop them from playing their game. In the end we did that very well because that’s a good team that’s much better than its record.”
Justin Laird and Ryan Creel scored 10 minutes apart in the first half, while UK’s defensive midfielders – Kristoffer Tollefsen and Paul Sime – each scored early in the second half to remove all doubt from the result by the hour mark.
Evansville’s Dylan Terry pegged a goal back on 70 minutes, but Kevin Barajas notched his first goal of the season just five minutes before full time.
Tollefsen’s goal came on a nicely taken direct free kick. The goal was his second of the season. Sime scored his first of the year after making a run more than half the length of the field as he was played in by Laird.
Jason Pitts, who scored on Sunday, assisted Barajas’ goal.
With five goals in the game, UK tied the fifth-most goals in a game and marked the 15th time in program history UK has scored five goals. UK’s five-goal outburst marked its most goals in a game since a 6-1 win over Florida Atlantic last season in Lexington. It was UK’s first five-goal performance on the road since 2012 at Florida International.
The comfortable victory served as a tune-up for UK’s return to C-USA action this coming Saturday.
The Wildcats will host ninth-ranked New Mexico on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. The match will be a showdown between the second and third-place teams in Conference USA as the Wildcats are on eight points in league play and the Lobos
Justin Laird and Ryan Creel were both on the mark 10 minutes apart to give UK soccer multiple first-half goals for the first time this season.
Justin Laird gave the UK soccer team a 1-0 advantage with a 25th minute curler from the top of the box. Laird’s goal was his team-leading fourth of the year.
The goal was assisted on a counter-attack by Napo Matsoso, who notched his team-leading fourth assist of the year.
The goal came on the break as Evansville was caught with numbers forward for a wide-set piece and calling for a penalty.
After the free kick pinged around in the box, it hit a UK defender in the midsection from extremely close range and the Evansville Players appealed to the ref for a spot kick, but nothing was giving.
With the Purple Aces focused on the referee, the Wildcats set about on the counter. Napo Matsoso played a ball from midfield to Laird, who dribbled to the top of the box found a bit of space to curl a left-footed shot across the goal and into the top left corner.
Ten minutes later UK would take a 2-0 lead. Ryan Creel’s glancing header off a Charlie Reymann corner trickled through multiple defenders and across the goal line.
The goal was Creel’s second of the season, and Reymann’s assist getting him back to tied for the team lead with Matsoso on four.
SETTING THE STAGE
The Wildcats were coming off two-straight wins, including a 1-0 victory at No. 21 UAB and a 2-0 result over Marshall at home on Sunday. The win over UAB was UK’s second road win over a ranked opponent this year as the Wildcats also defeated then-top-ranked Notre Dame in South Bend last month.
Evansville (4-6-1) entered the matchup coming two straight wins, including a 2-1 win over Bradley last Saturday.
UK head coach Johan Cedergren named an unchanged side from the one which had won each of the last two games.
Napo Matsoso set up at the heart of the attack in the central attacking midfield role as he was coming off a career day vs. Marshall. The sophomore scored a penalty after drawing the spot-kick and assisted the second goal.
The UK defense remained the same as it had ever since the second match of the year with Callum Irving in goal, and Charlie Reymann, Kaelon Fox, reigning C-USA defensive player of the Week Jordan Wilson and Matt Quick stretched across the back line from left to right.
That lineup kept two more clean sheets last week to give them eight this year, which ranks second nationally. UK also ranks third nationally in goals-against-average as the Wildcats are letting in less than a half a goal per game (0.40).
UK also began Wednesday’s match having posted a C-USA best eight shutouts to tie for third in the NCAA.
The Wildcats offense had also begun to click during the recent run of strong form. Bryan Celis became the second Wildcat to notch multiple goals this year as he netted the winner from distance at UAB. Justin Laird leads UK with three goals this year.