Charlotte tops Connecticut in PKs
Gentile scores in 85th minute to send game to overtime for 49ers
STORRS, Conn. -- Charlotte won a penalty kick shootout 4-2 to knock off Connecticut and clinch the program’s second trip to the College Cup. The game ended in a 1-1 tie after Giuseppe Gentile scored in the 85th minute. Then, Tyler Gibson, Donnie Smith, Isaac Cowles and Charles Rodriguez converted on the 49ers penalty kicks.
“Typical playoff game, very tight,” Charlotte coach Jeremy Gunn said. “We played good soccer at times but it was tough to get behind UConn. I thought that we passed the ball better than Connecticut. We were just finding it tough to get clear cut scoring chances. It was a back and forth game. When they scored in a game with few chances it was tough ask of our players. Time and again this year this group has the belief and they got ability, fitness and desire to come back. We kept pushing. Tyler Gibson knots the ball across the goal. Giuseppe Gentile buries another one off a great pass from Gibson and Aaron Weldon. Over the past couple of years, we did not advance on after going to a penalty shootout and it has been a thorn in our side. We have been practicing shootouts since last year. We showed great composure and converted the penalty kicks to put us into the College Cup.”
The game ended in a double-overtime tie before the 49ers calmly got penalty kick conversions from Gibson, Smith, Cowles and Rodriguez to advance to the College Cup. Connecticut’s Mamadou Diouf and Michael Mercado both missed their penalty kicks giving the 49ers the 4-2 shootout victory after Rodriguez converted on the 49ers’ final penalty kick. Charlotte brought in goalkeeper Gavin Dawson to play goal during the penalty kicks.
Connecticut scored the game’s first goal when Carlos Alvarez passed the ball through the 49ers defense to Tony Cascio streaking down the middle of the field. Cascio volleyed the ball into the back of the net near the right post from 18 yards out in the 82nd minute.
Charlotte answered when the 49ers were fouled near midfield. Weldon took the 49ers free kick from just on the 49ers side of midfield. Weldon sent a long free kick to Tyler Gibson who was about eight yards from the end line to the left of Connecticut’s goal. Gibson headed the ball off Weldon’s free kick to a streaking Gentile who put the ball into the back of the net from about eight yards out in the 85th minute. Gentile’s goal was his 10th of the season.
In the first half, Gentile had the game’s first shot when he headed the ball on frame in the 16th minute. Gentile’s shot was stopped Huskies goalkeeper Andre Blake.
In the 36th minute, Charlotte goalkeeper Klay Davis made a tough save on a Cascio header.
Charlotte had their best scoring chance of the first half when Robby Thomas blasted a ball toward the upper right corner of the goal from 30 yards out in the 38th minute. However, Blake punched the ball over the cross bar to keep the game scoreless.
UConn’s best scoring chance of the first half came in the 43rd minute, when Cascio chipped his shot over Davis’ head but the ball banged off the far post and the 49ers defense cleared the ball.
In the first overtime, the 49ers controlled the run of play for the majority of the period. Gentile and Thomas Allen had the only two shots of the first overtime period for either team.
In the second overtime period, Jennings Rex had the first shot but it went just over the cross bar in the 103rd minute. Connecticut’s Qian Grosvenor took a shot that Davis stopped just 35 seconds after Rex’s shot. James recorded the only other shot in the second overtime period but his shot went wide of the goal in the 108th minute.
Charlotte’s Davis finished the game with three saves in goal for the 49ers.
Charlotte finished the game with an 11-9 advantage in shots. Gentile led the 49ers with four shots. Thomas Allen tallied two shots for the 49ers.