Leading up to Boston College men’s soccer’s ACC home opener Friday night, there was a lot of energy and excitement.
“‘Buzzing’ was the word the players used,” Boston College men’s soccer head coach Bob Thompson said of the pre-match emotions. “They were jacked up.”
The Eagles maintained that intensity and energy that had built up over the course of the week and earned an encouraging result against one of the most talented teams in the country at Newton Campus Soccer Field.
BC (2–2–2, 0–1–1 Atlantic Coast) and No. 17 Pittsburgh (2–2–2, 1–0–1 Atlantic Coast) played to a 0–0 draw in a high-energy defensive battle. Both squads finished the match with two shots on goal.
“I just think the mentality of the group was really strong,” Thompson said. “We knew going into the game that we were going to be under it at times.”
The Eagles had a prime scoring opportunity just seconds into the match. Diego Ochoa controlled the ball off the opening kickoff and floated a ball down the left flank where Xavier O’Neil chased it down. O’Neil received the pass and rifled a shot just wide right of the net.
Both teams settled into the match soon after, and there were limited scoring chances for both sides. BC had its most success, however, with O’Neil on countless occasions. He totaled three shots all game.
“[O’Neil] was clean on the ball, and he created two or three really good chances for us,” Thompson said. “[He] got a couple of shots off himself—was unlucky not to have a goal.”
In the 28th minute, O’Neil took a pass from Alfie Hughes and blasted a shot from the top of the box. Pitt goalkeeper Cabral Carter needed every inch of his 6-foot-2 frame to tip the ball just over the net.
“I thought this was actually [O’Neil’s] best game,” Thompson said. “He looked really lively. He was confident going one vs. one.”
The Panthers had a pair of chances late in the first half. In the 34th minute, Luis Sahmkow jammed a shot just wide of the left post from in tight. Four minutes later, Michael Sullivan collected the ball at the top of the box and floated a shot on net that BC goalkeeper Brennan Klein handled.
Pitt maintained its high level of play in the opening minutes of the second half. Controlled possession and had a number of scoring chances that Klein—who has not allowed a goal at home all season—was tested. BC’s back line of CJ Williams and Ochoa was alert and cleared a few dangerous balls from the 18-yard box.
The Eagles’ opportunities in the second half were limited to four corner kicks, but BC’s execution on the set pieces was poor. In many instances, the Eagles tried playing a low ball to the front post, but the Panthers’ defense thwarted those threats.
“We don’t have a lot of big threats on set pieces, so we play to overload near the corner to get a better service and our hope is to draw them out and get a service back post,” Thompson said.
Pitt gave Klein his biggest test in the 79th minute. Sahmkow possessed the ball in the middle of the field before threading a pass to leading-scorer Luka Kozomara, who whipped a left-footed strike toward the far post that Klein got in front of.
In the 81st minute, things got a little scary for the Eagles when Kozomara pursued a loose ball and rammed into Klein. Both players remained down on the field, and Kozomara was booked with a yellow card. BC was forced to pull the injured Klein, subbing in Leon Musial.
“He’s doing well,” Thompson said of Klein. “I think he just took a couple knocks. He got kicked twice, I think, so he was trying to fight through it, but I think he’ll be okay.”
The Eagles had a flurry of chances to break the scoreless tie in the closing minutes. In the 88th minute, Marco Dos Santos slotted a ball on the ground into the middle of the box, but nobody got a foot on it. A minute later, Ted Cargill had a look from the top of the box but couldn’t get a shot off, solidifying the draw.