CHICAGO – Senior striker Max Lopez delivered two clutch finishes in the final 17 minutes of play to lift the third-ranked University of Chicago men's soccer team to a 2-0 victory over No. 5 Trinity University (Texas) in an NCAA Third Round contest on Saturday afternoon at Stagg Field.
The Maroons improved to 17-2-1 with the victory. The Tigers ends their season with a record of 17-2-3.
The two sides had battled to a chaotic and contentious 3-3 draw on a hot Texas night in early September, and the chilly, rain-drenched sequel promised even more drama with an NCAA quarterfinal berth on the line. The visiting Tigers pushed UChicago to the brink in the first half, yet with over an hour gone, neither team could claim any real advantage. As the Maroons clamped down on the talented and threatening Trinity side with a wholehearted defensive effort, Lopez made the most of two slim chances to decide the match.
Having borne the brunt of the aggressive Trinity defense all day long, Lopez finally clawed free in the 74th minute. Junior midfielder Renato Corghi fought to carve out space on the right wing and sent a ball into the area that caromed high into the air as the Tigers attempted a clearance. A mass scramble ensued in pursuit of the bouncing ball, with first-year midfielder Kyle Ruark leaping acrobatically to poke it back into the six-yard box. Lopez crashed through the middle and deftly extended his leg to meet the floating ball, sending it over the onrushing keeper and bouncing the shot off the underside of the crossbar to put UChicago into the lead.
Trinity hurried to equalize, but Lopez doubled the margin in the 80th minute, securing the Maroon win. Sophomore right back Scott Lich swung a curling ball to junior winger Dayo Adeosun, who lurked unmarked on the far side of the box. Adeosun nodded the ball down to Lopez at the post, who flicked it in from an imperceptible angle for the crucial second goal.
The Maroon defense closed out the rest of the contest, keeping a clean sheet against a Trinity attack that had entered the day ranked fifth in the nation with 3.68 goals per game.
The first 20 minutes of play hinted at a different outcome, with the visitors closing down almost every Maroon pass and moving rapidly into the attack after winning possession. Trinity could have easily gone ahead just three minutes in when a free kick set up a close-range shot, but a lunging Lopez cleared the ball from his own goal line.
UChicago endured the initial barrage of set pieces and the game began to balance out. Heavy midfield pressure and slick turf produced a number of vigorously contested loose balls as both sides scrambled to control the course of play.
The Maroons strung together a few attacks of their own, coming closest when senior forward Matthew Koh ripped a free kick just left of the bar from 24 yards out in the 27th minute.
The Tigers nearly picked up the opening strike on three occasions late in the half with a series of long balls. Sophomore keeper Aaron Katsimpalis adjusted well to save the first effort, while last-ditch solo defending from Lich and sophomore Isaiah Holquist prevented shots on the next two forays.
At the break Trinity had nine shots, with four on goal, while the Maroons had taken five and seen none stay on target. The first sign of a shift came in the 53rd minute when Ruark won the ball in the attacking end, setting off a crisp sequence of team passing. Senior midfielder Nicco Capotosto eventually threaded the ball through the box to Ruark, who laid it off to Lopez on the right. Lopez blasted a shot that beat the keeper on the near side, but it thudded off the post to the dismay of the Maroons.
The intensity rose as both sides played with growing urgency, scrapping for every inch of position and accumulating numerous fouls in the process. Apart from a sliding shot that Capotosto put on frame, nothing concrete emerged from the struggle until UChicago began to mount an offensive in the 73rd minute. Adeosun went down in a crowded penalty area but did not draw a whistle, then Koh's shot from the scrum was deflected wide.
Trinity fended off a series of Maroon corners but finally yielded under duress as Corghi got the better of a tangle with his opponents and Ruark kept the ball alive just long enough for Lopez to break from the Tigers' clutches and net the eventual winner.
Adeosun powered a long-range effort toward goal just a minute later, but a terrific save kept the game within reach for Trinity. The Tigers pressed up the pitch, but the Maroons hit back decisively as Lich's delivery and Adeosun's redirect set the stage for Lopez to unveil another superb one-touch finish.
Trinity failed to muster a single shot in the second half as fierce Maroons tackling snuffed out any hopes of the Tigers repeating their comeback performance from the previous encounter. If anything, UChicago might have snagged a third when Ruark spun away from his man in the 84th minute, but his shot sailed high.
A 13-0 second-half shooting advantage gave UChicago a 18-9 edge overall, with six on goal. Trinity had looked especially dangerous from set pieces, but the Maroons finished ahead 9-8 in corner kicks and conceded 13 fouls while the Tigers committed 21.
Katsimpalis improved to 17-2-1 on the year, making three saves for his 10th clean sheet of the year.
- Sunday, Nov. 18 @ 3:00 PM – Luther at UChicago