Behind a second half goal by junior Damian Gallegos and a complete team effort VCU Men’s Soccer (0-0-1) came away with a 1-1 draw in its season opener against No. 23 New Hampshire (0-0-1) Thursday night at Sports Backers Stadium.
Gallegos’ goal came in the 72nd minute and thanks to a strong performance in goal by redshirt junior John Ermini (three saves) VCU came away with a solid result to open the campaign. It was also a chippy match, with five yellow cards being shown between the two sides with New Hampshire seeing three yellows, all in the second half.
“It was a good result to get on opening night,” said head coach Dave Giffard. “The best part for me was we didn’t play as well with the ball as we have been during preseason which is a combination of what New Hampshire does very well and us not being as sharp as we have been. Not controlling the game with the ball and still getting a result is a huge positive from tonight.
“With several guys out and against a team that doesn’t lose much we battled and fought our way into the game and finished in the ascendancy as the game wore on. We’ll take the point and move on to training and video over the next few days to learn from tonight and hopefully get more guys back before we fly to FIU for another top-25 game.”
The Rams had five shots on goal to New Hampshire’s four, and in the second half the Rams doubled their shot output to six from three in the first half for a total of nine shots in the match. Sophomores Andres Rodriguez and Gerardo Castillo each led the way for VCU with two shots on goal, with Castillo adding another shot that went wide of the net.
HOW IT HAPPENED: During the first half, New Hampshire pressured the Rams, and in the 30th minute got a goal past Ermini to open the scoring. And over the final 15 minutes VCU weathered New Hampshire’s storm, getting two big saves from Ermini and handling three shots that went wide.
The Rams entered the second half in the game, and right away it showed as in the 48th minute junior Camilo Comi ripped a shot that was blocked in front of the New Hampshire goal. Both sides traded fouls and the first two yellows were issued during the 63rd minute (UNH) and the 66th minute (VCU).
But the Rams kept coming, staying locked in and in the 72nd minute New Hampshire got complacent.
The Wildcats were looking to play the ball from the back, but a bad pass from the New Hampshire defender was pounced on by Gallegos. And with one stab of his right foot, the Ram forward put VCU’s first goal of 2023 right past the keeper and in the back of the net to make it 1-1.
Over the final 20 minutes, three more yellow cards would be issued as both sides traded blows looking for the winning goal. And in the 77th minute, Rodriguez put one on goal but the save from New Hampshire’s keeper kept things level at one apiece. And when the final whistle blew, things ended in a 1-1 draw.
UP NEXT: VCU next hits the road for another top-25 matchup when they visit No. 21 FIU on Aug. 28 before heading to American on Sept. 1. The Rams next return to Sports Backers Stadium on Sept. 4 when they welcome North Carolina to Richmond.
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