(Dan Stratford postgame press conference)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As minutes ticked off the clock at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium, it appeared more and more likely that one scoring chance could very well be the decisive margin between West Virginia and Louisville in their NCAA Second Round contest.
As he has done several times throughout the season, Yutaro Tsukada seized the moment for the Mountaineers. His scoring strike in the 72nd minute sent West Virginia to the Round of 16 for the second time in the last three seasons. The Mountaineers defeated the Cardinals, 1-0 in front of a crowd of 3,137 fans.
Tsukada dribbled through the Cardinal defense after a pass from Carlos Hernando and slotted a shot just inside the post to secure safe passage into the third round of the NCAA Tournament. It was Tsukada’s tenth goal of the season.
— WVU Men’s Soccer (@WVUMensSoccer) November 19, 2023
“It was a team effort. We play how we practice. I scored the goal but as I said, it was a team effort,” Tsukada said.
“He is just the type of player that he is just a moment away,” WVU head coach Dan Stratford said of Tsukada. “He just needs someone to switch off for him to have a little bit of space and he can be incredibly dangerous. Thankfully, it came to fruition and he scored a wonderful goal.”
“We felt like it was coming,” said WVU midfielder Ryan Baer. “Towards the middle part of the second half, we started dominating the game. We were really on top of it and it stayed in their half for the majority of the middle part of the second half.”
Even though both teams combined to put just three shots on frame in the opening half, each had good scoring opportunities. In the 16th minute, Louisville had the best chance in the opening 45 minutes. Josh Jones’ open shot from ten yards away sailed over the bar.
West Virginia had a chance to strike first in the 18th minute. After a good buildup, Luke McCormick sent a shot attempt just wide of the post.
In the 22nd minute, it appeared that WVU had taken the lead when Marcus Caldeira sent a header on net from six yards away. However, Alex Svetanoff made a sprawling save to his left to sent the shot away.
Three minutes later, Carlos Hernando blocked a shot on the WVU goal line, keeping the game scoreless.
WVU held a 4-0 edge in corner kicks in the first half.
In the final half hour of regulation, WVU gained momentum with a pair of scoring chances. In the 65th minute, a run from Tsukada resulted in a shot that sailed just over the bar. Two minutes later, a shot from the top of the box from Sergio Ors Navarro was deflected wide of the net.
Tsukada nearly doubled the lead for the Mountaineers in the 74th minute when another shot went just wide of the mark. Tsukada had a match-high eight shots in the match.
Jackson Lee made three saves in the Mountaineer net. WVU held a 17-7 advantage in shots. Both teams had four shots on goal.
The Mountaineers (15-2-4) will host Vermont Saturday, November 25 at 4 p.m. The Catamounts (13-5-2) defeated No. 12 UCF, 3-2 in double overtime Sunday evening. With James Madison’s 1-0 win at No. 4 Georgetown Sunday, the No. 5 Mountaineers will play at home all the way up until the NCAA Final Four.
“You can’t really put into words how it affects you. But it does,” said Baer of having home field in the NCAA Tournament. “You feel the energy of the crowd. You feed off of it.”
“It does come with an advantage,” Stratford said. “We are undefeated at home this season. We don’t lose here often and it does change the circumstances a little bit as opposed to playing away.”
(Ryan Baer & Yutaro Tsukada postgame press conference)