By Jordan Shim–
Fourth-seeded men’s soccer came out on top in a back and forth second round match against San Francisco at Lynn Stadium.
The Cards took the lead twice only for the Dons to find the equalizer shortly after. But they couldn’t get a third, and Tate Schmitt’s strike from 25 yards in the 78th minute was enough to advance the Cards into the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year.
“Traditionally, the first game of the NCAA Tournament is clearly the hardest for a lot of reasons,” Louisville head coach Ken Lolla said. “For us having two weeks off trying to find our rhythm. On top of it, I thought San Francisco was a very good team. They hadn’t been shutout but a couple of times early. They have some dangerous guys, and put us under some pressure. But I’m proud of the guys, and how we responded in each instance and found a way to win the game.
With two weeks off and no win to build off of, the team needed time to settle against a San Francisco team with a huge win over in-state rival, California three days prior.
More than 70 percent of teams who score first win the game. Louisville put themselves in the best situation by opening the scoring through Cabon in the 32nd minute. Ziyad Fekri’s cross connected with the Frenchman, whose shot went through traffic before sputtering into the back of the net.
San Francisco searched for the equalizer before the break and found it in the 44th minute. A give-and-go between Leon Schwarzer and Sean Bowman found the latter in open space to fire a low shot past Louisville goalkeeper Jake Gelnovatch.
For whatever reason, Lynn Stadium has not had the home field advantage feel for the Cards like in past seasons. A win percentage below .500 does not look good for a team that secured home games until the College Cup.
Lolla decided to turn to goalkeeper Will Meyer in the second half despite Gelnovatch’s solid first-half performance.
The Cards came out the break aggressive and took the lead from Wilson, scoring his first goal as a Cardinal in the 50th minute. Cabon found Thiaw on the right flank, who sent a low cross to Wilson. The Scot fired from top of the box to the right post under the stretched arms of San Francisco goalkeeper Ruben Stuvier.
The Dons showed grit and fight by equalizing again in the 55th minute, putting them into the second round. The Cards conceded a free kick from about 35 yards. Bryce Kaminski jumped over his marker to head home Manny Padilla’s cross to make it 2-2.
Louisville took the lead for the third time in the 78th minute via Schmitt. From the top of the box, the Arizona native fired a rocket that took a deflection off a defender before hitting the back of the net to tie Thiaw for the team-leading eighth goal of the season.
“Tactically, credit to the coaches for switching formations,” Schmitt said. “We switched into something different where I’m sliding in more with Mo as well as finding that space in the middle. When we switched to that formation, it gave me more opportunities to find the ball. We had a nice string of passes. Tim played me a nice ball, I took a touch, and fortunately, it took a deflection, but it was going in either way.”
The Cards will be back at Lynn to take on Colgate Sunday, Nov. 26. Kickoff is slated to begin at 5 p.m.
You can follow Jordan on Twitter @tlcjordanshim.