Men’s soccer struggle continues

Joseph Ashley | The Parthenon Marshall player Chris Taibi defends the goal against Kentucky player Ryan Creel.

The Marshall University men’s soccer team lost 3-0 to the NCSAA 14 ranked University of Kentucky Wildcats Sunday. This score matches the biggest margin of defeat on the season for the Thundering Herd.

“Kentucky is a solid team from head to toe,” said Head Coach Bob Gray “But it’s the same old story for us. We beat ourselves today. Our inexperience shows, but in spots we played well.”

It was senior night in Lexington, Kentucky as the Wildcats honored five players that will be graduating and soon leaving the program. While all the seniors made a difference, none was bigger than Napo Matsoso. Matsoso was second in conference in goals, trailing only New Mexico’s Niko Hansen, and Matsoso added two more in the contest.

The first half saw the Thundering Herd struggle initially as Kentucky enjoyed an enormous portion of possession. While Kentucky could not capitalize immediately, the Wildcats were able to find weaknesses in the Thundering Herd’s tactics.

It was in the 12th minute that the Wildcats broke through. A fast-developing attack by the Wildcats offense caused Marshall to commit a foul about 25 yards from the goal and just offset to the right of the net. Matsoso lined up to take the free kick and curled it around the wall and into the net, narrowly beating a diving Marshall goal keeper, Trevor Clemens.

Marshall showed sputters of offense until the 30-minute mark of the first half, when the offense finally seemed to roar to life.

Joseph Ashley | The Parthenon Marshall’s Daniel Jodah battles for a loose ball against Kentucky player Kevin Barajas.

The best opportunity to score came in that period as the Thundering Herd were connecting with a plethora of passes, forcing the Wildcats to stack defense in the penalty area. About 35 yards from goal, Kentucky fouled a Marshall player, setting up a free kick. The free kick was belted into the box and skimmed along a few different heads, and while UK goal keeper Stuart Ford attempted to grab it, the ball was knocked away to a Thundering Herd player with nothing but an open net and the ball bouncing in front of him. However, a rushed shot for Marshall sailed wildly over the cross bar.

The score remained 1-0 going into halftime, where the Thundering Herd were gaining momentum despite being down a goal. Marshall controlled an even amount of possession in the second half with Kentucky and forced the Wildcats to play press defense coverage, leaving through ball passing opportunities open for Marshall. Marshall attempted to exploit these weaknesses, but could not find proper passing lanes to open the offense.

In the 60th minute, the Thundering Herd unraveled around a misplayed ball at the back. Slick field conditions made every ball soaked with moisture after a few minutes of play. A shot was rifled on net and Clemens was in position to make a routine save, but the ball slipped through his gloves and landed right at the feet of J.J. Williams, who easily shot the ball into the open net.

Just four minutes later Kentucky added another goal. Paul Sime, another Kentucky senior, passed to Matsoso who was on the run moving forward. Matsoso dribbled around two defenders and ripped a shot from 25 yards away from goal. The shot ricocheted into the net as Clemens watched helpless to stop it.

While Marshall is technically not eliminated from post-season play yet, the Thundering Herd will need massive help, accompanied by a win Friday, to have any chance.

Marshall’s schedule does not get any easier as they face the NCSAA 8 ranked University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff Friday, Nov. 4 at Hoops Family Field in Huntington.

Joseph Ashley can be reached at [email protected].