LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. ( Nov. 9, 2023) – Florida National University’s men’s soccer team survived a shootout in Lawrenceville, Ga., versus Georgia Gwinnett College in the first of two Continental Athletic Conference (CAC) semifinal matches, 5-4. The Conquistadors (11-2-4) showed true composure and maturity against a fiery and determined GGC (6-8-4) squad to execute a win in a rollercoaster match at the Grizzly Soccer Complex on Nov. 9.
In the first half, GGC got on the board first with a long-distance ground shot from Khaled Qasum that trickled into the back of the net 15 minutes into the half. FNU did not flinch, getting right back to work on the offensive side of the ball. Seven minutes later, a foul outside the penalty box set up a free kick from Bautista Dominguez. Dominguez volleyed a ball within the reach of 6-5 defender Paulo Henrique Da Silva Marques, who used his frame to block out the GGC defender, turn, and tap in the equalizer.
Set pieces played a huge role in FNU’s win, as Vinicius Mallmann launched a textbook shot from outside the 18-yard box on a free kick that settled just out of GGC goalie Andreas von Muecke’s reach. At the 44th-minute mark, forward Nicolas Martinez headed in a beautiful pass from Patricio Amores for his sixth goal of the season as FNU went into halftime with a 3-1 lead.
Florida National had seven shots in the period to GGC’s three and the Grizzlies were playing extremely physical with 14 fouls in the opening half.
When play resumed in the second, GGC Odin Solheim cut FNU’s lead in half on a goal assisted by Sam Povolotsky 13 minutes into the period. Both teams made goalie changes, with Vitor Caetano Pedrosa taking over for an injured Juan Manuel Fermoselle. Ron Boaz replaced Andreas von Muecke between the sticks for GGC.
In an unexpected turn of events, FNU conceded Georgia Gwinnett’s first penalty kick attempt this season and allowed Emanuele Sordi to confidently tie the match on a strike that went right past Pedrosa. At the 76-minute mark, Francisco Crimi capitalized on a defensive blunder from the Grizzlies for his sixth goal of the season and a 4-3 FNU advantage.
Christian Omar Hernandez chose the perfect time to get his first goal of the season, after breaking away from the GGC backline and beating goalkeeper Boaz for the score in the 82nd minute. With a two-score lead, it looked like FNU had this game in the bag until Rory O’Connor headed in a desperation pass from Marco Panaccione just 20 seconds after the Hernandez stunner. With the crowd cheering on the host Grizzlies, FNU managed the clock perfectly trickling down the final minutes before officially dancing to its third-straight CAC championship match.
FNU posted six corner kicks and 16 shots in this CAC classic, while Georgia Gwinnett recorded 10 shots and eight corners.
Up Next: FNU prepares for the CAC championship match on Saturday at 7 p.m. versus the winner of Washington Adventist University and defending champs Bellevue University.