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Men’s Soccer Season Comes to a Close

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KALAMAZOO, M.I. — Last year was a season of firsts for the University at Albany men’s soccer team. On top of knocking off the #3 ranked Syracuse Orange, the Danes defeated Hartford 1-0 for their first conference championship in program history.

The Great Danes also played in and won their first ever NCAA tournament game with a 3-0 win over Boston College.

With their all-time program leader in Division I points and goals, Afonso Pinheiro, along with four other seniors including veteran defenders Jeff Medina and Moosah Khanat in their final season with UAlbany, the purple and gold looked to once again make 2017 a season of firsts by looking to take the program to a place they’ve never been before: the Elite Eight.

Unfortunately for the Danes, they’ll have to wait at least one more year to reach their ultimate goal.

On a cold, windy and rainy afternoon in Kalamazoo, MI, the UAlbany men’s soccer team fell to No. 10 Western Michigan 2-0 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, officially ending their 2017 season.

“Today was a very difficult November NCAA tournament game,” head coach Trevor Gorman said. “It was a hard-fought battle between two teams in a difficult environment to play.”

Dominating the game, the Broncos forced pressure on the Great Danes’ backline from the very beginning, and took a 1-0 lead with a goal from Kosti Moni in the 39th minute and never looked back.

After a long throw in from Cameron Sipple into the box, Moni scored off a double header assist from teammates Brandon Bye and Ben Thornton, burying a shot into the back left corner of the net. Moni, the junior midfielder from Grand Rapids, MI, had come into the match just seconds earlier.

It was just the third goal the Danes conceded in the first half all season long. UAlbany hadn’t allowed a goal since the America East quarterfinals versus UMBC.

The Danes tied the match at one goal a piece in the 55th minute but the equalizing goal was disallowed after a foul from Pinheiro on the breakaway. Pinheiro broke behind the Western Michigan defense and wrestled with a defender as he headed towards the goal, resulting in the officials calling back the score.

“We were disappointed to concede two set-piece goals, but the game has such fine margins and the goal that we had disallowed looked like it was a good goal.  That would have evened the game at one and changed things a bit,” Gorman said.

Pinheiro tweeted a video of the incident with the caption: “I’m just going to leave this here.. You can make the call.”

Full tweet can be seen below:

https://twitter.com/Afonsop09/status/932403832860094466

Defender Ben Thornton sealed the win for the Broncos in the 62nd minute, scoring off a brilliant pass crossed from Bye perfectly into the middle of the box for Thornton behind the diving goalkeeper Danny Vitiello, ripping a shot into the net to give Western Michigan a 2-0 lead.

During the sequence, Adam Malekos slid into the leg of Thornton in an attempt to stop the wide open shot attempt and the two fell into the net after the shot.

Thornton gave a little shove to Malekos as he got up from the ground and blank shoved Malekos from behind, sparking a shoving match between Malekos and four Broncos players. Teammate Riccardo Iafrate came to defend his teammate and players from both teams got involved. Iafrate had to be held back by seniors Pinheiro and Khanat when the incident was over.

Iafrate and Western Michigan’s Connor McNulty were both assessed red cards and immediately ejected from the match.

The Broncos outshot UAlbany 13-2 in the first half and 22-8 in the match as a whole.

“At the end of the day, full credit to Western Michigan. Congratulations to them,” said Gorman. “They’re a good team that advance on, and we’re very proud of our guys for what we’ve accomplished throughout the entirety of the season.”

The Great Danes played with more intensity in the second half but ultimately couldn’t find a way to score against the Broncos defense.

UAlbany’s 14 victories this season set a program high for single-season victories, breaking the previous best of 13 set from last season.

On top of the program record for D-1 points and goals, Pinheiro leaves his career with the Danes also tied for the program lead in assists with junior forward Nico Solabarrieta.

As the Danes look ahead to 2018 and trying to repeat as conference champions for the third consecutive season, plenty of questions need to be answered including the loss of five graduating seniors.

Overall, Gorman has to be happy with the resilience of his group, ending the 2017 season as back to back conference champions and a lot to be excited about as they look towards 2018 and beyond.

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Rob "Lep" Lepelstat is the sports editor of the Albany Student Press. Along with the ASP, Lep works as Vice President of ATV and sports director for WCDB. During the summer of 2017, he interned at WABC-TV in New York City.

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