MSOC falls to Pitt in clash of crosstown rivals

Peter Boettger | Staff Photographer | Duquesne’s Cameron Territo (No. 32) vies with a Pittsburgh player for possession of the ball during Monday night’s contest. The Panthers defeated the Dukes 5-2 in the late-season rivalry game.

Spencer Thomas | Sports Editor

Oct. 20, 2022

A pair of second-half goals weren’t enough, as Duquesne men’s soccer team’s comeback bid fell short in a 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Monday night.

The Dukes entered the match ranked 25th in the nation, while the Panthers were the first team outside of the top 25 in United Soccer Coaches Poll. Still, the City Game was always going to be difficult for Duquesne, who entered with an all-time record of 0-9-2 against its crosstown foe.

After a relatively even first 20 minutes, Pitt was able to strike, when Luis Sahmkow lifted a one-timer into the roof of the goal from close range. The Panthers added another goal just before the half and extended their lead in the game’s 56th minute.

“I think the first half, we really didn’t play our style. We didn’t stick to our principles,” said Duquesne Head Coach Chase Brooks. “We struggled to get anything going.”

Prior to Monday night, the Dukes had not given up more than one goal in a game all season, and just seven total goals in 14 games. The Panthers were heavily reliant on their patience, as they moved the ball around until a golden opportunity struck. When it did for the third time, Duquesne goalkeeper Domenic Nascimben was visibly incensed with his back line.

“We gave them two goals that we haven’t conceded all season long off of errors,” Brooks said. “So, then you’re chasing the game, and when you’re chasing a game, you’re going to leave yourself more exposed.”

From that point, Duquesne wasted little time to turn the game around. Freshman Ask Ekeland scored 12 seconds after Pitt’s third goal, getting the Dukes on the board.

“I think scoring the goal is a confidence builder,” Brooks said. “It shows that we can actually do this.”

The Dukes ran with the momentum after Ekeland’s goal, and controlled the majority of possession for the next 15 minutes. They hit payday again in the 61st minute, when a Nate Dragisich free kick careened off the head of a Panther defender and into the back of the net.

A sizable crowd of traveling Duquesne fans were suddenly brought back into the game, and the Dukes maintained momentum in their play for several minutes.

But they couldn’t strike gold.

In the second half, Duquesne took major exception with the game’s officiating. Still trailing by one in the 79th minute, Duquesne lost possession, and Pitt went on a fast break. The offside flag went up from the side official, but he was overruled by the referee, and Pitt quickly scored.

An irate Duquesne squad sprinted to the referee to voice their complaints, but to no avail. Pitt had regained the momentum, and their two-goal lead held firm without much return pressure from the Dukes.

Brooks did not waste words when asked about the incident after the game.

“The play was offside, and the ref said no,” Brooks said.

Pitt would salt the game away with a goal in the final minute, and finish with a 5-2 victory.

“The guys after the game, it hurts and they don’t want to feel this way,” Brooks said. “It’s a tough game to lose like that, there’s a lot of emotions for a lot of these guys, being from the Pittsburgh area.”

Despite the defeat, the loss reflects Duquesne’s improvement in the past year. In 2021, Duquesne lost this fixture 7-0 in a game that was hardly competitive. This year, they kept the Panthers within one until the game’s final 10 minutes.

“This isn’t anything but ultimately a blip on the path,” Brooks said. “And everything is a learning moment.

The loss snaps a five-game unbeaten streak for Duquesne that was bolstered with a 2-1 win over Davidson at home on Saturday night.

The loss drops Duquesne out of the national rankings, but Pitt was unable to assume their spot, as both teams find themselves in the “also receiving votes” category.

The Dukes will get after it again on Saturday when they welcome Fordham to Rooney Field. The Rams are merchants of the draw this year, having tied eight of their 13 matches this season, including four of six in Atlantic 10 Conference action.