Creel's Golden-Goal Sends UK Soccer Back Atop C-USA Table


By Jacob Most at Stone Stadium
Oct. 25, 2014

Box Score | Photos

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Napo Matsoso recorded the 10th hat trick in program history and Ryan Creel scored a golden goal with 1:08 remaining in the second overtime bring the No. 19 Kentucky men’s soccer team an improbable 4-3 win and send it into first place in Conference USA on Saturday night at South Carolina’s Eugene Stone III Stadium.

Creel’s goal came after the Wildcats surrendered a three-goal lead, while playing with a one man advantage.

With the win, Kentucky (W9 L3 D3; 4-0-2 C-USA) moved back atop the C-USA table on 14 points, passing seventh-ranked Charlotte, which defeated UAB 1-0 on Friday to get to 13 points. Both teams have played six in the league.

The Wildcats are riding a five-game winning streak, their longest run of consecutive wins since 2009.

Kentucky now has a seven-match unbeaten streak, tied for the second-best total in the history of the program.

“It was a rollercoaster game, but first you have to give South Carolina a huge amount of credit,” UK head coach Johan Cedergren said. “Down 3-0 with 30 minutes to go and down a man they just threw all caution to the wind and we weren’t really able to deal with it for a while. South Carolina made it really hard for us even though they had a less (players) on the field.

"For us it’s another win, a win on the road. The first 60 minutes were the way we want to play. We were really solid defensively. I thought Napo pulled the strings in midfield. For him to score a hat trick is great. We’ve been talking a lot about how the next step in his evolution as a complete player is to score more goals as that No. 10 guy. Today he really showed how good he can be."

Since the Wildcats posted a 1-0 win at No. 1 Notre Dame, their second all-time win over a top-ranked foe, UK has posted an 8-1-3 record, outscoring opponents 19-7.

A native of Knoxville, Tenn., Creel scored after South Carolina misplaced a pass in its own final-third. Bryan Celis received the ball 30 yards out, dribbling into the box on a 4-on-3.

A native of Houston, Celis played a square ball to Creel near the penalty spot, and the sophomore winger toe poked it into the right side-netting to give UK its fifth-straight win. Celis finished with three assists on the night.

Kentucky has scored 31 overtime goals in program history, including two in each the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Creel's goal was the latest for the Wildcats since Michael Strickler netted a goal with 109:19 on the clock to beat Western Michigan in 1997.

Matsoso’s scored his first-career hat trick to give UK a 3-0 lead by the 56th minute. Matsoso’s hat trick marked the 10th all-time three-goal game for a Wildcat and the first since Tyler Riggs completed the task in a 6-1 senior day win over FIU in 2013. In the head coach Johan Cedergren era, the Wildcats have had one hat trick in each of his three seasons at the helm.

South Carolina (7-8-0, 2-4-0 C-USA) pulled three goals back in the last half-hour, two of them coming in the final 10 minutes to send the match into overtime.

South Carolina’s comeback came with the Gamecocks playing a man down as Kurtis Turner was sent off on 44 minutes for a hard tackle on Matsoso inside the USC half.

South Carolina’s Mikkel Knudsen’s equalizer on 86 minutes was his second goal within four minutes. Kundsen fired home off a pass from Koty Millard to score his sixth of the year, after he scored unassisted from the top of the box in the 83rd minute to bring the Gamecocks within a goal of the lead.

Ive Burnett gave South Carolina a lifeline with a goal from 18 yards on 56 minutes.

Matsoso scored two top quality goals in the first half and one 10 minutes after the interval.

He completed the hat trick in the 55th minute, finishing a pass in the box by Justin Laird, who assisted his fourth goal of the season.

Matsoso’s hat trick was the first of the year for UK, taking him to four goals in 2014.

With the win, UK tied the all-time series with South Carolina at 5-5-2.

UK went 10 unbeaten games consecutive over the 2008-09 seasons to set the program mark. UK’s last seven-match unbeaten streak in a single season came in 2004. During UK’s current streak, the Wildcats have wins over No. 9 New Mexico, at No. 21 UAB and at South Carolina in the double-overtime thriller on Saturday. UK has outscored opponents 14-5 over the seven-game stretch.

FIRST HALF
Matsoso broke the deadlock on 35 minutes in what was a lovely team goal. Bryan Celis started the move that led to the goal with a wide ball to Charlie Reymann who brought the ball to the end line before cutting it back to Matsoso, who tapped it home.

Just before half, Matsoso padded UK’s lead on a venomous strike from the top of the box. The sophomore midfielder took a pass from Celis and hammered it into the roof of the net.

South Carolina had the better of play in the opening 10 minutes, but UK found its way into the match during the second quarter of an hour.

The Wildcats had a penalty shout on 12 minutes when Napo Matsoso played a ball into the box from the left flank toward Justin Laird, who appeared to be tripped while lunging for the ball.

SETTING THE STAGE
The C-USA matchup between the Wildcats and Gamecocks is colloquially referred to as the Southeastern Conference Men’s Soccer Championship. The Wildcats and Gamecocks are the only two SEC schools that sponsor men’s soccer.

Kentucky entered the match as one of the hottest teams in the nation, having won four straight games to stay unbeaten in six. UK’s overall record over 14 matches in 2014 was W8 L3 D3 (3-0-2 C-USA).

With a win against South Carolina, UK would go back atop the C-USA Table. Seventh-ranked Charlotte defeated UAB on Friday to go atop the table on 13 points from six games. UK had 12 points from four games, while UAB won on nine points having played five.

UK head coach Johan Cedergren named an unchanged side from the one which had won four-straight games.

Justin Laird, the reigning National and C-USA Player of the Week led the UK line as well as the teams in goals scored in 2014 with five entering Wednesday's match.

The Wildcats were also ranked No. 19 in the coaches’ poll this week, the team’s first time in the top 25 since 2011.