Posted: September 20, 2008
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s soccer team fell just sort of a thrilling comeback against Fairleigh Dickinson at the Ulrich Sports Complex on Saturday. The Mountain Hawks trailed by two goals late in the second half, but they had a chance to tie the match in the waning seconds, before falling 3-2 to the Knights.
The Mountain Hawks made a furious rally in the final seconds of play, drawing a free kick by Adam Gazda with just 20 seconds remaining. Gazda played a ball into traffic where Jesse Schram was waiting to flip a header towards the goal, but the effort was deflected wide. Then as the clock ticked down, Neal Melchionni fired a cross off a corner kick into the box, but the header was again just wide of the goal.
“Putting pressure on a team is one thing,” head coach Dean Koski said. “Being able to finish is another. We just lacked character and commitment in the box tonight, on both ends of the field.”
Lehigh had its chances throughout the match, outshooting the Knights 21-9, including 12-3 in the final frame. The Mountain Hawks also put 10 shots on goal and drew 10 corner kicks, but they were still unable to tie the score.
Matt McNeil was the lone Mountain Hawk to find the back of the net on Saturday. The junior put both of the team’s goals away after confusion left him with a nearly open net each time. The first score knotted the game at one goal apiece, when McNeil was waiting on a misplayed corner in the FDU end.
McNeil’s second goal gave the Mountain Hawks hope when they were previously down 3-1 in the 87th minute. On a Lehigh throw-in, the Fairleigh Dickinson defense accidentally played the ball back towards its own goal, giving McNeil another golden opportunity to score.
“Matt was in the right place at the right time tonight, so kudos to him for that,” Koski said. “But it can’t just be a one man team.”
The Mountain Hawks fell behind in the game in just the second minute, when Christian Vasconez blasted a free kick from outside the 18 to the left side of the goal. After McNeil’s goal tied the score in the seventh minute, Paul King made good on another free kick attempt for the Knights; this time from 25 yards away.
The game-winner came in the 81st minute for Fairleigh Dickinson, when a failed clear attempt by the Mountain Hawks opened the door for Samson Malijani to give the Knights a 3-1 advantage.
Both sides played an aggressive style of play throughout the match, and head referee Mike Lee had to stop play multiple times to regain control. In all, 24 fouls were called and five cards were issued to the two teams combined.
“I’m sure that for Fairleigh Dickinson they were doing all of that to disrupt us,” Koski said. “I don’t think any of the fouls were unwarranted for either team.”
Lehigh returns to action on Saturday, September 27, when it hosts archrival Lafayette at the Ulrich Sports Complex at 7 p.m.