JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - UNCG men's soccer moves within striking distance of a Southern Conference regular season championship this Saturday, defeating ETSU on the road by a final of 1-0. The Spartan defense held their opponents without a single shot on net over the course of the night, with senior forward Faisal Almubaslat delivering the game-winning finish in the 87th minute.
"I thought we were really good tonight," said Head Coach Chris Rich after the match. "We played with a positive mentality, really trying to dictate the game...Our defensive performance was fantastic. We worked extremely hard and made it difficult for ETSU to get in a rhythm offensively. They are a good footballing team, and that field is massive, so it definitely wasn't easy to stay committed to our press, but we did."
The Spartans outshot their hosts 4-1 in the opening 45 with striker Micah Albert getting the first attempt on frame on a shot from the edge of the 18 that was stopped by the ETSU keeper. Both sides would get their chances however, with the Bucs producing a one-on-one opportunity in the 28th minute. Defender Ethan Conley would make the last second tackle to keep the home team off the board, sprinting back to get his foot on the ball before the Bucs could take their second shot of the afternoon.
UNCG and ETSU registered just a shot apiece in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, as the two teams' defensive efforts seemed destined to force a scoreless 90 minutes. The Spartans changed that notion with an up-tick in offensive pressure during the final 25 minutes, after a pass from captain Nelson Oceano sprung a sprinting Cam Fowler down the left side, whose cross in front of goal was sent just wide by Albert.
"There were a lot of good performances, but for me, the man of the match was Nelson Oceano," commented Rich. "He was everywhere and had a massive impact on both sides of the ball."
Fowler created another chance just moments later on a similar play, and defender Matthew Skinner would send a volley on frame that was just steered wide by the Buccaneer keeper, but it would be a shot from Faisal Almubaslat that found the back of the net and the game-winner in the 86th.
With his back to goal, Almubaslat received a pass from Oceano before turning toward the ETSU defense. The senior striker beat his mark with a cut to his right before sending a perfectly aimed strike just inside the bottom right post from the top of the 18.
"Obviously a great goal by Faisal," said Coach Rich. I've been asking for special moments, especially from our attacking players, and that was special."
Almubaslat's late finish didn't provide the Spartans' hosts much time for an answer, as Coach Rich's squad were able to drain the final three minutes off the game clock for the 1-0 victory. UNCG now moves to 4-1-0 in conference play, going into their final SoCon matchup of 2019 against Mercer this Tuesday in Greensboro, with potential to move back into the top spot in the conference table.
Three Things To Know
-- The Spartans held the Bucs without a single shot on goal on Saturday night, outshooting their hosts 11-6 overall
-- UNCG's shutout is their fourth of the year, with three of those results coming against Southern Conference opponents. The Spartan defense holds a .40 GAA in SoCon play this year
-- With Furman's overtime loss to Mercer on the same Saturday, the Spartans now move past the Paladins for the top spot in the table. UNCG can take this year's regular season championship if they beat Mercer on Tuesday and Furman is unable to win either of their matches against Belmont or Wofford to close the season.
COMING UP NEXT
With just two regular season matchups remaining, the Spartans will look toward their sixth and final Southern Conference matchup of the year at home against Mercer on Tuesday. UNCG is 10-7-0 against the Bears all-time.
-- UNCG –