Blink and you might have missed it.
As fans continued to pile into FIU Soccer Stadium for the FIU men’s soccer match against Omaha in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday night, the Panthers scored the opening goal just 56 seconds into the game.
A quick free kick from midfielder Paul Marie into the box caught the Omaha defense off guard and allowed defender Deshawon Nembhard to head the ball into the back of the net. It was the second goal of Nembhard’s collegiate career – and by far the biggest.
It was enough to lift the Panthers (12-1-4) to a 2-0 victory over the visiting Omaha Mavericks and send FIU on to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Panthers will travel to Durham, North Carolina, Sunday, Nov. 19, to take on the No. 6 seeded Duke Blue Devils. The match will begin at 6 p.m.
“These guys have been waiting for this game, and it was a great confidence booster for the start of the game,” FIU Head Coach Kevin Nylen said. “It was a back-and-forth game and fortunately we were on the right end of a couple of set pieces. It was a great team effort.”
Then in the 25th minute, the Panthers added an insurance goal off another free kick that sent the 1,148 fans packed in the stands into another frenzy.
This time, Marie – a native of Saint-Aubin-des-Bois, France – headed the free kick toward the corner of the net, where fellow Frenchman Jordan Machado knocked the ball in to ensure the goal.
What a free kick!
— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) November 17, 2017
Perhaps the most valuable player of the match was FIU’s backup goalkeeper Daniel Gagliardi, who entered the match after starter Hugo Fauroux was injured in the 12th minute and unable to continue in goal.
Gagliardi, who had only two prior game appearances this season prior to Thursday’s match, made several clutch saves in the second half to thwart off the Mavericks’ comeback effort. The redshirt sophomore finished with seven saves in the winning effort.
“Danny came in and had a great game,” Nylen said. “We have a deep team and it’s shown all year.”