It was perfect fall weather and the stands were full of fans waiting to welcome the VCU men’s soccer team home after an extended schedule of road games. There was a lot of excitement around the event as Ram fans had been posting via social media their plans to attend the game against in state rival ODU. Some were coming for the first time this season and some for the first time EVER. The evening started on a high note with the VCU Peppas performing pregame and a terrific rendition of the national anthem from a guest female vocalist.
The Rams have been playing a tough preseason schedule having already faced multiple high ranked teams early in play. This is a great strategy for jump starting high level play and for setting the team apart for end of season when strength of schedule counts to push bubble teams into post season play. The crowd was ready for some action and for a Ram victory. Unfortunately there would be hurdles and heartbreak in this game as missed opportunities, inconsistent calls, and a strong ODU goal keeper kept VCU from the win they were chasing.
The first half kept a good pace with the Rams controlling the majority of the possessions with some good opportunities. They may have been a little too amped up as their shots were too strong to make any count. Wanting to help out The Peppas took up a post behind the ODU goal and heckled the defense up close. The bright side was that the Monarchs also remained scoreless and the first half ended with neither team in the lead.
Just before the end of the first half VCU Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin arrived in his tux (the game coincided with the VCU Black and Gold Ball). During halftime he congratulated student-athletes from various teams with a 3.0 or higher GPA during a ceremony on the field. When the second half of play began he was in his usual place on the sideline with the team showing support and yelling at calls until he was convinced to head back to the ball.
Things started to unravel when ODU was awarded a penalty kick in the second half, which was met with much commentary and a collective boo of disagreement from the stands. The first goal was waived off by the official when ODU prematurely took the shot. Unfortunately the subsequent kick by Sidney Rivera also found the way into the net giving the Monarchs a 1 – 0 lead over the Rams. Roughly 14 minutes later it was followed up by Christian Schroeer who scored ODU’s second goal. The second half saw some extra conflict between players on the field and some excitement from Coach Giffard on the sidelines who did not agree with some of the officiating. The fans were also displeased and several collective boos were given throughout the evening.
There was a glimmer of hope in the 80th minute as Ritchie Duffie scored his first goal of the season. It was a beautiful play as he got past the goal keeper and made a shot into a wide open net. It gave the Rams a little ammunition and they went after the tie opportunity but a cross from Duffie to Kharlton Belmar was spoiled when it hit the goalie. As usual the Rams continued the pressure right till the end, but it just wasn’t enough to stop the Monarch’s despite 12 shot attempts with 5 on goal over the course of the game. VCU goes on the road again for their next match against Notre Dame on September 30th.
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