O'Neill Scores Twice to Lead Soccer Past Memphis
LEXINGTON – In the regular-season finale, senior Riley O’Neill scored twice and the 14th-ranked Kentucky soccer team put on a clinic in a dominating 3-1 victory over Memphis on a crisp Saturday night at the UK Soccer Complex.
The win was UK’s third straight overall and seventh straight at home, which tied the school record. The Wildcats wrap up the regular season 12-4-2 and 5-2-1 in Conference USA, good enough for second place in the conference, only a half-game behind top-ranked SMU.
O’Neill, who came off the bench to play 71 minutes, scored seven minutes apart midway through the second half to put the game away. His first goal came on a great individual effort in the 72nd minute that made it 2-0. He pressed forward as the ball was played back to goalkeeper Michael Goodlett by a Tiger defender. Goodlett shanked his attempt to clear and it went virtually straight in the air.
At that point, O’Neill was the only player around the ball and used his body to shield Goodlett from being able to pick it out of the air. As the ball fell, he controlled it with Goodlett on his back, used one touch to turn and fired into an empty net to score what would be the game-winner.
Memphis answered in the 76th minute when Jamie Gilbert’s shot deflected off a Wildcat defender and got by keeper Matt Troop just inside the post.
However, O’Neill made it a two-goal game again in the 79th minute when he scored off a feed from Michael D’Agostino from six yards out. D’Agostino dribbled into the 18 from right side and played the ball across the box to a streaking O’Neill who slid his shot low under a diving Goodlett.
The goal was O’Neill’s 15th of the year as he registered his fourth multi-goal game this season. He also netted his sixth game-winner, extending his school record. He is one goal shy of the school single season record of 16 set in 1991.
O’Neill’s two goals came on his only two shots of the game while UK owned the shot advantage 17-6. D’Agostino was dangerous all game with five shots, including two that rolled just wide of the post. The Wildcats also owned an advantage on corner kicks, 7-5.
Mark Halma gave Kentucky the lead in the first half on a header off Masumi Turnbull’s corner kick in the 35th minute. He beat Goodlett inside the right post.
Halma nearly had a second goal in the 38th minute on another header only to watch his header find the right post. On a floater into the box by Jase Griffiths, who played for the first time in more than three weeks, Halma rose above the defense and knocked his header over Goodlett, who had come off his line. However, it hit the far post and Goodlett recovered just in time to keep O’Neill from burying the rebound.
Troop was magnificent in goal in making three saves. Two were spectacular early in the first half that kept the game scoreless. In the 16th minute, Jared Britcher cracked a shot from just outside the box on the left half. It was destined for the upper 90 at the far post, but Troop made a diving effort to his left to knock the ball past for a corner.
Just two minutes later, Tripp Harkins was left all alone on a breakdown but was stonewalled by Troop from 15 yards away.
Kentucky returns to action on Wednesday at Tulsa, Okla., in the Conference USA Tournament. The Wildcats earned the second seed.