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No.13 UAB slides past FIU, Getman takes 90 wins (Photos)
The game was aggressive from start to finish, but the Blazers inched ahead in the second half and held onto their lead to beat conference rival Florida International Wednesday night.
The No. 13 men’s soccer team beat the Panthers, 1-0, October 16 in a tight game with lots of fouling and little else.
From the very beginning, FIU came out hard. The fouling started right away, with the Panthers amassing ten fouls before halftime. UAB was close behind with eight.
The sounds of bodies smacking into each other could be heard from the field as players slid on the damp grass. There was a small and quiet crowd that was at turns outraged and vindicated by the referees’ calls.
“That’s their style of play,” head coach Mike Getman said about FIU. “They’re a big team. They want to be physical. They didn’t want to let us get into a rhythm.”
The Panthers’ confrontational style led to a rough game. By the end of the match, there were six yellow cards and 39 fouls between the two teams.
“We had like a wake up call the first ten, fifteen minutes,” redshirt senior midfielder Fatai Alabi said about the physical intensity of the game. “By the time we realized it, we got to step it up too, so that’s how it is.”
UAB’s senior midfielder Norris Howze got the game’s first yellow card for cursing at a referee. FIU’s freshman midfielder Nicholas Midttun got a yellow card for attempting to block a corner kick. Alabi and FIU’s junior forward Quentin Albrecht also received yellow cards in the first half.
Players from both teams had to put up with antagonistic opponents, and the results were at times ugly. UAB’s freshman forward Rami Dajani came off the field with blood trickling from his temple after a skirmish near the goal minutes before halftime.
“It’s pretty tough,” redshirt junior midfielder Alex Clay said about keeping his cool. “You just got to put your head down and play soccer at the end of the day. I mean, people are going to come out and kick you and call you bad names, but you’ve just got to play soccer.”
By halftime, neither team had scored.
“The first half of the game was played the way they wanted it to be,” Getman said. “At halftime, that’s really what we talked about . . . Let’s just play. Let’s not get caught up in the fouling and kicking people.”
The team was able to calm down the game long enough to get a goal, scoring minutes into the second half.
In the 48th minute, Clay scored his fourth goal of the season in the top right corner. Sophomore forward Freddy Ruiz collected the assist.
“I’m getting a lot of good opportunities to score, and luckily Freddy put me in,” Clay said. “Everyone’s kind of working as a team this year . . . We’re playing really well up top and in the midfield, so I’m getting in good positions and trying to put the ball away.”
Getman said the team won because they were able to calm down the game.
“We did a really good job of that the first maybe 20 minutes of the second half, scored the goal, controlled how the match was played, and really won the game by just settling down and playing,” he said.
Clay agreed that the team played better in the second period than in the first.
“In the first half, it was kind of rough. We kind of tried to play too many long balls,” he said. “We couldn’t settle it down because of the rough play, but in the second half we came out and played some soccer. We played in the midfield. Then we had some pretty good possession. Finally, got a goal.”
FIU didn’t give up, and the game was aggressively physical until the end. The Panthers’ redshirt senior defender Luke Bray got the game’s fifth yellow card, and Clay picked up the final one.
The Panthers were fiercely vocal in their displeasure with the referees, and some players were still arguing with them after the clock had run out.
It was a solid victory for the Green and Gold, who didn’t give up a goal, as FIU’s offense is ranked 16th in the nation. (The Blazers currently have the highest scoring offense in the country.)
“Everyone has talked all year about how many goals we score,” Getman said. “We’re one of the top attacking teams in the country, but people have forgotten that we’re a very good defensive team.”
This season, the team’s given up the fewest goals in the history of its program, said Getman.
“Tonight, the defense carried us. We scored one great goal and then defended really well for 90 minutes,” he said. “They call it the beautiful game. It’s not always so beautiful. It was one beautiful goal and a lot of hard work tonight, but that’s what wins matches.”