Danes Hitting Stride: Pinheiro Picks Up Where He Left Off
When Forward Afonso Pinheiro scored the game winning penalty kick goal vs Hartford back in November 2016 to seal the University at Albany Men’s Soccer first title in program history, the Sao Paulo, Brazil native ripped his shirt off in celebration with his teammates.
Fast forward to Friday night when Pinheiro found the back of the net to break a 1-1 tie vs George Mason, he once again went back to his signature celebration.
After a scoreless first half, UAlbany Men’s Soccer defeated George Mason 3-1 with three goals in the second half and a two goal explosion by Pinheiro in less than two minutes late in the game.
“The only thing that surprised me was that he took his shirt off,” head coach Trevor Gorman said when talking about Pinheiro’s performance in the win. “The last time he did it was later in the season—and it was colder.”
George Mason entered Friday’s contest having just knocked off #19 Coastal Carolina in their last game but the Great Danes were able to build on the momentum from their 4-0 win over Rhode Island in the home opener.
Sophomore midfielder Brynjar Steinporsson broke the 0-0 tie with a header in the 66th minute off of a perfectly placed corner kick by Daniel Krutzen right into the box for his first career goal.
Moments later in the 69th minute, George Mason would respond with a goal of their own to even the score at one. Junior Graydon Hester found teammate Henning Dirks with a brilliant pass behind the UAlbany defense and shot past the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Danny Vitiello. The goal ended Vitello’s bid for a fifth consecutive home shutout.
With the momentum back with George Mason and the fans at Casey Stadium shocked, the Great Danes responded.
In the 85th minute, senior defender Jeff Medina set up Pinheiro with a through ball inside the box and the senior forward broke through with his second goal of the season to make it 2-1 Danes.
After Pinheiro was fouled inside the box in the 87th minute, the Sao Paulo native sealed the win with a penalty kick goal past goalkeeper Corey Chambers into the back right corner of the net.
“We talked a lot about keep pushing keep pushing no matter the adversity and we knew we would eventually find the back of the net,” Pinheiro said. “We just kept going and motivating each other and feed off of that motivation and everyone acting really positive brought us to get those goals late in the second half.”
Dating back to last season and including Monday’s home opener, UAlbany has outscored opponents at home in their last six matches 18-2.
In that home opener, UAlbany dominated from the very beginning and never looked back, riding the momentum of the conference title last season in front of a crowd of over 2000 fans at Casey Stadium.
Midfielder Carlos Clark had two goals Monday night both assisted on free kicks by Daniel Krutzen to lead the Danes to a dominant 4-0 performance over Rhode Island.
With all of the momentum with the Great Danes and a 3-0 lead in hand, Afonso Pinheiro put a bow on the home opener ending the match the same way he did vs George Mason—with the senior putting the game away with his clutch second half scoring.
Expectations are high for UAlbany in 2017 as the team is projected to finish second in the conference according to the America East’s preseason coaches’ poll, but the Great Danes are not caught up in trying to compare this year’s squad to last year’s team, which ended with hoisting up the America East Trophy in front of their home fans.
“We talk about how every year is a new team a new group and college soccer is so competitive… we just focus on enjoying the season and the journey and we don’t want to weigh ourselves down with expectations,” head coach Trevor Gorman said. “If we work hard get better and have fun the rest will take care of itself.”
The Danes are back in action on Tuesday night as they look to make it a perfect home stand as they take on Boston University in the final of three straight home matches.
For fans, coaches, and players, they hope this isn’t the last time Pinheiro turns to his signature celebration, as the Great Danes look to repeat as conference champions in 2017.