After two friendly victories and a 45-minute weather delay, the UCF men’s soccer team started its season, putting up a four-goal second half to cap the season opener with a 5-0 win over FAU on Friday night.
UCF controlled the majority of the game, allowing the team’s backfield to push up around midfield for much of the 90-minute match.
Midfielder Matias Pyysalo tallied two markers in an eight-minute span and added a pair of assists for six points, which is the second-most number of points in program history for a single game.
“It felt good. I think it was one of the breaking points of the game,” Pyysalo said. “It will just build my confidence.”
Defender Neico Regent struck first for the Knights in the 11th minute and forwards Hadji Barry and Gorka Aperribay got themselves on the board as well.
“It’s imperative with this group, because we are still relatively young, to score again in the first 10 minutes, which is always a goal for us,” head coach Bryan Cunningham said. “We dominated in possession, we dominated in chances, to only allow them to have two shots on goal is great, to get a shutout is great and I just thought we really executed.”
Pyysalo, who took the majority of the Knights’ corner and free kicks, wasn’t always the last foot on the ball before it crossed the line, though, as he added a pair of assists.
For his first assist, he put a free kick in the box from a distance. An FAU player attempted to head it out but put it directly off the chest of freshman Jakov Basic onto the foot of Regent, who buried it bottom left.
Pyysalo, a native of Helsinki, Finland, scored on a UCF clearance in the 54th minute. Walker Dawkins skied the ball three-quarters of the field’s length and FAU’s Daniel Montoya headed it off a bounce while Phillip Hitpass, FAU’s German goalkeeper, was coming out to play the ball. That left Pyysalo in alone and he capitalized on an open net.
The Finnish native’s second goal came from a feed by Aperribay in the 62nd minute. After a fake shot, he sent the ball to the back of the net in the 62nd minute.
In the 70th minute, Hadji Barry was next as he shook a defender with a left cut, put a shot on the ground that slipped through the FAU keeper’s hands and celebrated on the sidelines with Knights Watch, the men’s soccer supporters group.
“There was an awesome crowd out there, and they were nonstop, and they really kept our players going,” Cunningham said. “The important part is they’re a part of our team.”
For Pyysalo’s second assist, he chipped a ball from midfield that hopped once before Aperribay one-touched it over the FAU keeper.
“College soccer is very unpredictable,” said goalkeeper Zach Biggs, who recorded his first career shut out as a Knight. “We had that first goal early on, and we didn’t give up the lead, we continued to surge on.”
The Knights will play their next game on the road when they take on FGCU on Wednesday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m.
Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JarrodHeil or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.