In what has become a familiar refrain during the early going for the Elon University men’s soccer team, the Phoenix was unable to take advantage of its stingy defense and tied Florida International University 0-0 on Wednesday, Sept. 10 at Rudd Field in the home opener under first-year head coach Chris Little.
“It’s always disappointing not to win at home,” Little said. “But the positive is that that was the fourth game we’ve gone 90 minutes keeping a clean sheet. I’m very pleased with our defending and our organization on the defensive end.”
Despite its stingy defending, the Phoenix has struggled to find the back of the net consistently. In its five regular season games, Elon has four goals, two of which came in one game. In the other four games, the Phoenix has scored just twice while getting shut out in the other two.
In the 48th minute, junior forward Caue Da Silva went one-on one with the keeper, but mishit his shot right into the waiting arms of redshirt freshman goalkeeper David Griffin. Two minutes later, Da Silva again threatened the Panthers goal, but his shot from the left side of the box from point-blank range went wide.
“We went clean through at the goalkeeper twice,” Little said. “You can’t create any better chances. We just failed to capitalize on it, which I think is the result of decision-making and technique.”
In the game’s waning minutes and in both overtime sessions, the Panthers dynamic offense woke up, ramping up the pressure on Elon senior goalkeeper Nathan Dean and his back four and nearly finding the back of the net in the 90th minute, when sophomore defender Marvin Hezel's header hit the inside of the post off a set piece. Yet, through it all, the Phoenix remained resolute. Elon dispelled every Panthers attack and kept a clean sheet, its third shutout on the young season and the 19th of Dean’s career.
“We knew they were a quality attacking side,” said Dean, who moves to second all-time in Elon history for career shutouts. “So we weren’t surprised when they came pretty hard at us. But what made us so successful was pressing high and limiting the amount of chances they had. They had a lot of shots, but a lot of them were from far out so they didn’t trouble me much.”
The game was filled with penalties and rough play. 41 fouls were called and seven yellow cards were issued.
The Panthers outshot the Phoenix, 11-10, and had four corners kicks to zero for the Phoenix.
Elon will play its second consecutive home match against West Virginia University at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 14.