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Depleted Firebirds Fall at Wilmington

Sophomore midfielder Kelvin Hernandez battles for a loose ball. (Photo courtesy of Megan Teat)
Sophomore midfielder Kelvin Hernandez battles for a loose ball. (Photo courtesy of Megan Teat)

NEWARK, DE – The University of the District of Columbia men's soccer team was defeated by host Wilmington University, 6-2 in East Region action on a steamy, 95-degree Wednesday afternoon.

With just 13 able-bodied student-athletes on the roster, including two goalkeepers, head coach Matt Thompson knew competing against a Wildcats team ranked No. 4 in the East Region and receiving votes for the top-25 in the nation was a big ask.

"For large periods of the game, we controlled the play and had several goal-scoring opportunities," Thompson said. "Had we taken one early in the first half, it might have been a very different outcome."

Much like in its season-opening 2-1 overtime loss to Holy Family where UDC out-shot the Tigers 21-12, the Firebirds actually out-shot Wilmington 11-7 in the first half despite heading to halftime down 4-0.

"The simple fact of the matter was that Wilmington took their chances when presented, and we could not," Thompson said.

With only one substitute available, and student-athletes playing out of position and battling fatigue, the Firebirds still worked tirelessly to earn a 2-2 tie in the second half score line. They rallied early in the closing period, with freshman midfielder Gabriel Torres scoring on a great move and even better finish for his first career goal. Torres leads the team with 15 shots this season, five of which came today.

Just moments after Torres' goal, senior defender Victor Salinas-Furio nearly scored on a set-piece that would have cut the Wildcats' halftime advantage in half, but it was not to be.

Thompson had to sub out starting goalkeeper Joao Brusamolin with a little over 20 minutes remaining in order to have Brusamolin sub in for one of his field players.  The freshman from Brazil showed he is not just a goalkeeper but a capable athlete on the field, scoring a goal on a breakaway 1-v-1 with Wilmington's starting goalkeeper Vinny Tasca.

"I was proud of the way the team battled against adversity," Thompson said. "This kind of determination and effort will stand them in good stead for the upcoming games. The ego takes a battering, but we stay positive with the knowledge that we have quality within our squad. We know that when we get the injured players back fit and healthy, we can compete in all our regional and ECC games."

The Firebirds will take on non-regional foe Salem International on Saturday, September 10th at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.