Matsoso, Pitts Chart Goals in League Win over Marshall

By Brent Ingram and Jacob Most at The Bell Soccer Complex
Oct. 12, 2014 -

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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Napo Matsoso converted a penalty kick goal in the 50th minute to break a scoreless game and Jason Pitts connected on his first career goal in the 84th minute, lifting the Kentucky men’s soccer team to a 2-0 win over Marshall, on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon at the Wendell & Vickie Bell Soccer Complex.

A native of Louisville, Ky., Matsoso forced a penalty kick opportunity with a shot into the box, plunking a Marshall defender with a handball on his shot attempt. Matsoso then stepped up for the first penalty kick opportunity for the Wildcats on the year, firing a right-footed shot at the left upper 90. It was UK’s first penalty kick goal since converting a PK at Marshall on Oct. 30, 2013.

It marked the 2013 freshman All-Conference USA selection’s first goal of the year and the second of his career. Matsoso has two goals and eight assists in his two-year career.

“Marshall really worked us, we had a hard time keeping the game up to speed like we want to play,” head coach Johan Cedergren said. “I thought we had a hard time finding our midfielders on the ball facing forward. A lot of that had to do with the work rate that Marshall put in defensively and also how hard they worked in their formation.

“It wasn’t our crispest performance this season, but at the same time we were super-solid defensively with a couple of moments of individual brilliance and there you go. Napo caused the penalty, scored the penalty – great goal. Then Justin Laird turned them inside out to assist on the goal that Jason Pitts scored fantastically from just running.”

In the 84th minute, a run by forward Justin Laird set up UK’s second goal of the game. Laird took it to the end line at the corner of the six-yard box, flicking it back to Matsoso who was open inside the box. Matsoso fired a shot that forced a diving save, with the ball deflected back to an open Pitts at the near post, who finished it for his first career goal. Laird and Matsoso were each credited with assists, with Matsoso owning three in 2014 and Laird sporting two assists in his senior season.

“One of the things we do well is we beat teams in transition. I thought Jason did a great job staying with the play and just making that 80-yard run and he gets a two-yard tap in in the end. He was rewarded.”

Kentucky (6-3-3, 2-0-2 Conference USA) continued a stellar start to the 2014 season, remaining with just one loss in its last nine games, including wins at No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 21 UAB, and wins over Marshall, Xavier and East Tennessee State. UK has draws in conference with FAU and Old Dominion. With eight points in league action, the Wildcats move into second place in the C-USA standings.

UK junior standout goalkeeper Callum Irving teamed with the dynamic back four – featuring center backs Jordan Wilson and Kaelon Fox, and outside backs Charlie Reymann and Matt Quick – to post its C-USA-leading eighth shutout of the year.

Irving, who leads the conference with a 0.40 goals-against average, has 15 shutouts in his three-year career. A native of Vancouver, British Columbia, Irving ranked fifth in UK career history in shutouts and just 12 games into 2014, has the fourth-most clean sheets in UK single-season annals. Irving has a 0.89 goals-against average in 31 career games.

Marshall (3-6-2, 2-2 C-USA) keeper Bijan Gloston finished with seven saves, with UK owning a 14-12 advantage in shots and a 5-2 mark in corner kicks.

Kentucky will return to action on Wednesday, traveling to Evansville for an 8:30 p.m. ET non-conference action.

The Wildcats had their best chance in the first half in the 15th minute as Kristoffer Tollefsen fired a free kick from 25 yards out, forcing a diving save from Gloston at the far post.

UK got a great chance in the 69th minute as Bryan Celis – who scored the game winner for UK at UAB on Wednesday, forced a leaping save at the near post on a hard strike, setting up a UK corner.

In the 89th minute, UK executed a gorgeous counter attack, as Laird broke free with space, finding a streaking Matsoso, who dished it off to Wilson. Wilson fired a hard-hit shot that forced another acrobatic save.
Kentucky and Marshall played to a draw over the first 45 minutes.
UK dominated possession, but were unable to unlock Marshall’s defense as the Thundering Herd dropped plenty of players behind the ball while UK was in possession.
Still UK created a few threatening chances in the opening period.
UK’s best scoring opportunity occurred on 15 minutes as Kristoffer Tollefsen forced a great diving save  with a 23-yard set-piece attempt.
UK also came close to scoring in the fourth minute when Napo Matsoso slotted a great ball to Justin Laird, but the striker’s attempt across goal went wide.
UK goalie Callum Irving, who entered the match ranked sixth in the nation with a 0.43 goals against average, made one save.
Marshall’s Ryan Forde did have a great opportunity on a free header that missed the frame on 35 minutes.
UK outshot Marshall 6-4 in the first half, and had the lion’s share of possession.
UK head coach Johan Cedergren named an unchanged side from the one that beat No. 21 UAB on the road in midweek. Napo Matsoso remained in the central attacking No. 10 midfield role. The goal-scorer from Wednesday, Bryan Celis, started the match on the left wing.
UK fielded its first-choice back-4 of Charlie Reymann, Kaelon Fox, Jordan Wilson and Matt Quick, which had allowed five goals all year, and with seven clean sheets from 11 games ranked eighth nationally in shutout percentage.
The Wildcats entered the match unbeaten in-conference (1-0-2) this year, and coming of their second win over a top-25 opponent on the road this year. UK had lost just one of its last eight matches, posting wins at No. 1 Notre Dame and at No. 21 UAB. UK also boasts wins over Xavier & ETSU and earned a 0-0 draw with then-No. 19 Furman.
Sunday’s matchup was primed to have major implications at the top of the C-USA table as Kentucky and Marshall were separated by just one point atop the conference standings. UK sat on five points from three league games this year behind Marshall, New Mexico and UAB on six points each. Charlotte, topped thetable on nine points after a win over FIU on Saturday.
Marshall entered the match 3-5-2 overall and 2-1-0 in-conference, coming off a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Old Dominion. The Herd had also defeated South Carolina 1-0 (OT) in conference play this year.