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Florida Atlantic Athletics | November 12, 2021

FAU soccer knocks off Marshall to advance to C-USA championship

4 predictions for rest of the men’s soccer season through the NCAA tournament
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Florida Atlantic University men's soccer team (9-6-3, 2-4-2 in Conference USA) turned the nation's heads on Friday night, stunning No. 4-ranked Marshall (12-2-3, 5-1-2 in C-USA) in a 3-1 victory. Marshall, who entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed, trailed the entire match despite the Herd dominating possession for majority of the second half. With the win, the Owls downed the 2020 NCAA College Cup Champions, becoming the third ever No. 6 seed to defeat the No. 2 in the C-USA Men's Soccer Tournament.

First Half
Both teams took some time to get things rolling offensively. Inside 10 minutes, Marshall had a few promising possessions, but defenders Chadi Mayati and Tom Abrahamsson came up with big stops to prevent the Herd's attack. The Herd got the first shot off in the game, a strike on target at the 15th minute, but Neil Strauber came up with the diving save to keep the game knotted up at nil-nil. At the 18th minute, Davide Romeo took the ball down the right side of the field to cross to Jose Alastuey, who played the ball back to Abrahamsson. As soon as Abrahamsson received the ball, he daggered the ball past the Marshall keeper to find nothing but net. FAU took the 1-0 lead to break the Owls' scoring drought against Marshall in the past two meetings.
Marshall was fighting for the equalizer, but a good sliding play by Graeme Pratt halted the Herd's attack. In the remainder of the first half, Marshall had some miscommunication issues with several passes off the mark to lead to FAU throw ins. With time ticking in the first half, Marshall got off a shot off at the 45th minute, which went out left and Strauber let the ball roll out as time ticked down in the first half. FAU led Marshall 1-0 after 45 minutes of play.
Second Half
The Herd dominated on their attacking third of the field for majority of the second half, but FAU came up with stop after stop. At the 55th minute, Marshall delivered the best chance at an equalizer off a cross, but Strauber punched the ball out of the way to keep the Owls' 1-0 lead at bay. The Herd continued to knock on the door, but FAU kept coming up with great defensive stops, including a pair of blocked shots at the 66th and 72nd minutes.
After the Herd had the ball for most of the opening 30 minutes in the second half, Alsonso Coello Camarero  intercepted the ball to start charging down midfield. Coello Camarero found an open Blake Dean, who broke away on the left side of the field. The senior crossed the ball to Ivan Mykhailenko, who beat a trio of Marshall defenders and turned around to strike past the Herd's keeper. FAU took a 2-0 lead at the 76th minute. Minutes later, Abrahamsson was issued a yellow card, which set up Marshall for a free kick in dangerous territory well-inside the 18. The kick went out high, as Strauber got a hand on it, and the score remained at 2-0.

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At the 80th minute, Marshal's Vinicius Fernandes cut the Owls' lead in half off a goal that found the back right of the net. Not even a minute later, Célestin Theodore answered with a goal of his own for his first of the season. Theodore set up the shot beautifully, beating the Marshall defender one-on-one with his great footwork and the Owls went back up by two. With time ticking down, Marshall could not dig out of the hole, as the No. 6-seeded Owls upset the No.2-seed Herd, 3-1. FAU handed Marshall just its second loss of the year.

Of note:

  • FAU became the third ever No. 6 seed to defeat a No. 2 at the C-USA Tournament. No. 6-seed Tulsa did so in 2010 (2-1 win over UCF) and the other time came in 2001 when sixth-seeded Marquette defeated UAB, 2-1
  • Abrahamsson delivered his second goal of the season to put the Owls up early. The defender also came up with a number of huge stops
  • Mykhailenko logged his eighth goal of the year off the game-winner, his fifth of the season. The senior now has the second most game-winning goals (11), fourth most goals (21) and seventh most points (45) in FAU history across three seasons
  • Theodore's ESPN SportsCenter Top-10 worthy goal, which was off his first shot attempt of the year, was the second of career, first of the season
  • Alastuey and Romeo registered their third assists of the season
  • Dean's assist on the game-winner marked his fourth on the year
  • Abrahamsson, Coello Camarero, Pratt, Vasilis Spinos and Strauber played the match's full 90 minutes
  • Strauber put on another stellar performance between the pipes, recording four saves and allowing just one goal on 13 shots faced
  • FAU advanced to the conference championship title game for the first time since 2007, when the Owls went on to win the American Soccer Conference Championship
  • The Owls' upset is the biggest for the program since 2000 when the Owls defeated No. 4 UAB, 2-0

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Quotes from coach Worthen

"I'm just so proud of this team. To beat Marshall is a massive accomplishment because of who Marshall is. They are such a good team, they are really well coached, they have fantastic players and they are the defending national champs, so for us to be able to get the win in the way we did it, I just couldn't be more pleased with the guys," said head coach Joey Worthen. "[Our team] played like we know that they can play and they played with just passion. They played for each other as a team, and it was great to see as their coach. I'm really happy for them!

"We executed the game plan. We knew we needed to defend well in large stretches, and we did it really well. The whole team collectively just defended very, very well, especially the backline and Neil [Strauber] coming up big time and time again. We knew we would get some chances and knew we needed to capitalize on them, and we did absolutely that… To score three goals against them in the way we did it, I just couldn't be more pleased. The guys made big time plays and executed.

 "I'm just thrilled, and for these guys to now be able to play for a chance at a championship, they deserve it. This is a special group of young men and a fantastic team. It took every single one of the guys. Like I said, we played a number of guys, [who] came in and did fantastic and made big plays. The guys on the bench did really well. This is a big team win again for our entire team. We executed the game plan really well and got the result for it!"

Up next

FAU advances to the C-USA Championship title game to fight for a chance to punch their ticket into the NCAA Tournament. The No. 6-seeded Owls face No. 3 seed Kentucky on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Transamerica Field. Coverage will be on ESPN+.

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