Golden goal keeps No. 22 Butler unbeaten in conference play
INDIANAPOLIS — Saturday night in Indianapolis and the scoreboard still showed 5:05 left to play. It was sudden death for St. John’s in overtime. Butler men’s soccer won their third straight to open the Big East season. The final score was 1-0.
Butler pushed the tempo from first kick with the first hopeful ball launched forward in the game’s opening seconds. The Bulldogs entered the weekend ranked No. 22 in the nation and boasting a 2-0 record in Big East play. Their opponents have an equal record in the Big East and have already amassed five wins on the season.
The first real chance of the match came from Butler defender Alex Lehtinen. He found himself with space and cutting in on his right foot from about 20 yards. His shot was just over the bar but it sent a message. Brandon Guhl found the ball at his feet a few moments later. Originally with his back to goal, Guhl turned in the box and unleashed a shot that deflected off a St. John’s player and angled wide of the goal.
If the name Guhl sounds familiar, it is possible that you heard him on the local airwaves on Saturday morning. Guhl was a special guest on the weekly Soccer Saturday with host Greg Rakestraw. A link to that radio broadcast can be found HERE.
The match was not entirely one-sided. The Red Storm pressured and tested tested. Probing balls found their way forward. St. John’s had three corner kicks and two shots belonging to Ben Roth in the first 45. The Bulldogs goalkeeper Eric Dick was occupied but he dealt with everything in front of him and didn’t record a save in the first half.
End to end action was the story early. Both teams committing numbers forward provided soft resistance in the middle third. Butler certainly had the better of the chances as intermission approached. Eight total shots and six corner kicks tipped the scales for the home team and the first round had to be awarded to the Bulldogs.
HALFTIME: @ButlerMenSoccer 0, St. John's 0
The Bulldogs with 8 shots (2 on target) compared to the Red Storm's 2 (0 on target).
— Kevin Johnston (@KJboxing) September 30, 2017
The next period started with noticeably less intensity, but the second half lull was short lived. With St. John’s on the attack Alistair Johnston set up substitute Filippo Ricupati’s header that forced a save from Dick. Back the other way, penalty shouts as Butler managed to get in behind the defense, and the Red Storm offered a tough challenge while chasing the play. Everyone was awake after that.
Ricupati drew gasps and nervous groans once again with 30 minutes remaining. His blast had beaten Dick but it hit squarely off of the round post and came right back to him. Just when one has a sense that the Bulldogs are the better team, St. John’s finds a way back in. The stats may not show it, but the match played fairly even throughout and the visitors never backed down.
The crowd noticed and they grew louder while excitement continued to build. There was an understanding among those watching that one goal would do it for either side. This match was legitimately contested from end to end for 90 minutes and both teams seemed desperate to avoid extra time. However, extra time could not be avoided.
The word ¨chippy¨ gets thrown around too frequently in sport, but there is no other way to describe the first of added time.
Several players stood out for Butler in the final frame. None more important than the other. Eric Dick, once again demonstrating his dominance in front of the net, firmly denied the game winner that spilled to Eric Leonard who collected and launched the attack that would seal it for the Dawgs. Guhl would be denied in front of goal, but the rebound fell to Lehtinen who would then be fouled in the box by a flailing goalkeeper. Breathe. The ensuing PK would be professionally dispatched by Lewis Suddick. Ball game! Stop the clock. Suddick took his shirt off before he left the pitch, but no one seemed to care.
This game deserved a goal and Suddick had played well all night. He was man of the match, but without Dick, none those late game heroics would have been possible. There were 30 shots and 10 saves between two solid teams. Butler moves to 3-0 in conference play and will take on the No. 14 Hoyas of Georgetown in Washington D.C.
Follow Aaron on Twitter: @agunyon.
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