CHICAGO – A stunning last-minute strike from first-year Kyle Ruark handed No. 2-ranked University of Chicago men's soccer a 1-0 victory in a thriller against No. 4-ranked University of Rochester at Stagg Field. Saturday's UAA conference opener between top-five opponents delivered on expectations with a hard-fought contest decided by the thinnest of margins.
The Maroons improved to 10-0-1 while saddling the Yellowjackets (7-1) with their first loss of the season.
It looked almost certain the match would head to extra time when, in the 89th minute, Ruark gathered the ball on the right wing. Taking on his defender, he pushed forward, cut inward, then twisted back out to leave his man off balance, the ball on his right foot, and a narrow window open on goal. Ruark buried a cleanly-struck shot just inside the far post for the match-winner.
UChicago would not have made it to that point without crucial saves from sophomore goalkeeper Aaron Katsimpalis and several outstanding defensive efforts. Senior midfielder Nicco Capotosto and junior defender Sam Drablos won balls consistently both in the air and at their feet, while sophomore right back Scott Lich was a constant menace on both sides of the ball. Even senior forward Max Lopez got in on the defensive action, tracking all the way back into his own box to clear Rochester set pieces time and again.
The visiting Yellowjackets brought pressure from the outset and threatened to go ahead early through a point-blank header that Katsimpalis denied with a stellar reaction save, leaping to bat the ball over the bar. Another open look from just yards out missed wide, and soon after a sliding tackle from Drablos broke up another clear opportunity.
UChicago had its first chance in the 13th minute when it appeared senior forward Matthew Koh had beaten the Rochester keeper to a jump ball, but the referee's whistle brought the play to a halt.
The Maroons started to grow into the game midway through the half, stringing together numerous attacks. The best opportunity came in the 32nd minute when Koh took aim on a free kick in prime shooting position. His effort clipped the wall, however, and the Yellowjackets' keeper stopped a well-placed header from Lopez on the ensuing corner kick.
Rochester looked poised to take the lead near the end of the first half, but the Maroons staved off the visitors' advances to keep the match even through the break.
The second half brought more tense, balanced play. However, the hosts gradually built an incremental advantage. Lopez controlled and distributed the ball well despite a lack of space, releasing Koh and junior winger Dayo Adeosun into attacking positions.
The Yellowjackets had moments of their own and looked especially dangerous from set pieces. They nearly capitalized in the 63rd minute when a long throw settled to a Rochester player who fired low toward the post. Katsimpalis dove to make the save but the ball popped up to another attacker crashing in on goal. He struck the ball firmly from only a yard out but Katsimpalis, lying on the ground, somehow snagged it off his opponent's shooting foot for another marvelous stop.
UChicago nearly went ahead in the 71st minute after a one-touch give-and-go from Lich to senior Josh Scofield and back set up Lich to curl a ball into the area. Lopez got on the end of it and flicked a header toward the far post, only to watch it sail just wide.
Although the game grew increasingly chaotic and seemed unlikely to find a resolution, intermittent offensive sparks gave the Maroons hope until the winner finally came. Koh, who had been patient all day in the face of a swarming defense, held up the ball and picked out Ruark with a pass. The first-year, in his conference debut, did all the rest to the delight of his teammates. The Maroons withstood one final corner kick and captured the 1-0 victory.
UChicago outshot Rochester 14-6, with a 5-3 lead in shots on goal. The Yellowjackets held a 6-4 edge on opportunities from corners.
- Saturday, Oct. 6 @ 11:00 AM (ET) – UChicago at Emory University