Denver Uses their Heads in NCAA Tournament-Opening Win Over LIU, 2-1

Denver men’s soccer began play for the NCAA College Cup at Pioneer Field against Long Island University (LIU) Thursday afternoon. DU waited until the final 11 minutes of play to finally score and open the floodgates en route to a 2-1 tourney-opening win. All three goals in the contestcame on headers.

In the first half, Denver controlled play, especially in the midfield, but could never create grade ‘A’ chances to take a first-half lead. A steady northerly breeze impacted the first half as numerous passes were driven off course, making passing combinations difficult. Denver had 7 corner kicks and 3 shots on goal in the half. Sam Basset and Oje Ofunrein generated all the chances for Denver but the Pioneers were held scoreless.

Denver controlled play to begin the second half but LIU found paydirt first. The Sharks were on their back foot in the second half when they found themselves on the Pioneer end of the field. LIU was awarded an indirect kick twenty-five yards from goal. The bending entry kick found LIU’s Emil Jaaskelainen’s head who, re-directed the service past DU keeper Isaac Nehme, 1-0 LIU. At that point, LIU was fortunate to be leading, given the 15-4 shot disparity in DU’s favor. The Sharks began to stall, feigning injuries and running the clock at every opportunity. Denver would have none of it and finally awoke from the game-long scoring slump. Thirteen minutes later, an Ian Smith feed to Bryce Willoughby was headed into the cage to knot the score 1-1, as the momentum shifted back to the Denver side. Less than three minutes later, freshman Tyler Schommer nailed the game-winner, his first collegiate goal, for Denver with a header on a pretty backpost service pass from Sam Bassett with 7:43 remaining..

All three goals in the game were headers:

Denver advances to take on No. 6 seed SMU, a team the Pioneers always seem to play every single season in the NCAA Tournament, in the second round on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT/6 p.m. MT in Dallas. DU defeated the Mustangs earlier this season in Denver.

6 thoughts on “Denver Uses their Heads in NCAA Tournament-Opening Win Over LIU, 2-1”

  1. Pios got the job done when it mattered most, and they took over the game that they deserved to win.

    For a DU team that has lost its three captains (and arguably its best players) to season-ending injuries earlier in the year, the fact that DU is going to the NCAA second-round is remarkable…

  2. Close contest, probably closer than it should have been. To use the hockey cliche, Pios just had to “stick with it,” and eventually they prevailed. The better team won.

    It was great to see this team in person one last time. Hope they can keep it going. Go Pios!!!

  3. Nice job, Pios. Always great to get at least one NCAA tourney win. What an experience when they made it to final four years back. Have only been paying a little attn this year, but wondering who this guy is that has registered multiple hat tricks this year.

    1. That would be junior Oje Ofurein. He has really put it all together this season. A bright student-athlete who wants to be a doctor. This is from his bio on the school website:
      Honors and Awards:

      Summit League All-Newcomer Team (2021)…Summit League Offensive Peak Performer of the Week (9/26/22).

      Played in 10 matches for the Pioneers, starting in four…Scored in back-to-back games against Oregon State on September 20 and Oral Roberts on September 24.

      Played in 15 of Denver’s 19 matches off the bench for the Pioneers, seeing 296 minutes of action on Denver’s forward line. Drew the penalty for the game-winning goal in Denver’s 2-0 win over Eastern Illinois on October 2.

      Before Denver:
      Cum Laude…2017-18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Frontier Division Top Scorer…Also played basketball.

      Son of Kehinde and Omolola… Has two siblings Ohireme and Aimalohi…Chose the University of Denver because of the culture, and his desire to grow as much as possible as a student, athlete and most importantly, a person…Hopes to become a physician, specifically in the areas of endocrinology and dermatology.

  4. Thanks, 5B. I’m guessing he is not close to Shinyashiki level, but looks like someone who could have a great senior year.

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