Denver men’s soccer (9-4-5, 4-1-1) played with four backline defenders against the #8 Clemson Tigers (14-5, 5-3). The highly athletic and skilled Tigers controlled play on the night with occasional counterattacks by DU into Clemson territory. The Tigers outshot Denver 24-4 and shots-on-goal 9 to 3 but it took Clemson 107:31 minutes to secure the overtime win.
Despite Clemson controlling the pace of play, the game looked to be heading into a shootout after 110 minutes of regulation and overtime. With only 2:29 remaining in the second and final overtime period a Clemson player was tackled in the box by DU’s Eli Mereness. It was correctly called a foul and Clemson’s All-ACC first-team star, Oskar Agren, buried the penalty kick off the fingertips of DU’s goalkeeper Will Desantis.
THE MOMENT THAT SENT US THROUGH!!!!! OSKAR GETS IT DONE!!!!#ClemsonUnited🧡💜 pic.twitter.com/S2eBXSDdwx
— Clemson Men's Soccer (@ClemsonMSoccer) November 22, 2021
It was an excellent season for a young Denver side with nine freshmen and five sophomores. Head coach Jamie Franks was clearly banking on a counterattack goal during regulation or putting the game in the hands of his substitute penalty-kick goalkeeper, Kobe Gray. It was a smart strategy that came within a few minutes of working.
In the end, the best team won on the night but DU soccer put up a courageous fight following a match strategy that nearly paid off.
One thought on “Denver Soccer Falls in NCAA Tournament 2nd Round, 1-0, to Clemson in OT”
DU damn near stole that game, but the best team certainly won out! The Pioneers played the last 500+ minutes of its season without conceding a goal from the run of play, so Franks was dead right to concede possession, bunker down and counter against a seriously technically superior, talent-rich Clemson side.
That said, DU did manage a few countering runs that made Clemson work in the d-zone, including one in OT, but the Pios never had enough numbers to overload any spaces going forward to sustain it, always keeping shape defensively to not allow Clemson numbers in transition in case of a turnover.
Unlike the DU women’s soccer season that ended with SLT underperformance, this DU men’s side had some clutch performances down the stretch, which were eye-opening and season-extending. The clutch 2-1 win at Virginia and Kengo Ohira’s bomb against Grand Canyon in the NCAAs was certainly the offensive highlights in an otherwise low- producing DU offense this year.
Conversely, Kobe Gray’s heroics on saving penalty kicks in the Summit League tourney got DU into the NCAA tournament when the Pioneer offence could not muster enough goals against Summit League teams.
Nevertheless, DU was an overachiever, with a top 32 result for a team that was ranked #79 or so coming into the NCAA, so kudos to the Pios.
The challenge for Jamie Franks and his staff is to develop some goal scoring ability to allow the Pios to be a top 20 NCAA-level program again instead of just a Summit contending, top 80-ish RPI program.