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Pacano’s Hat Trick Lifts Firebirds Over Daemen, 4-3

Raphael Pacano (left) celebrates a goal with Gabriel Velluto. (Archive photo)
Raphael Pacano (left) celebrates a goal with Gabriel Velluto. (Archive photo)

WASHINGTON, DC – Senior forward Raphael Pacano scored three goals, including the game-winner, to lead the University of the District of Columbia men's soccer team to a much needed, 4-3 East Coast Conference win vs. Daemen College on a beautiful fall afternoon at UDC Field.

The Firebirds, who won despite playing without All-American and team leading scorer, Gabriel Torres, likely kept their ECC playoffs hopes alive as they improved to 4-3 in league play and 6-7-1 overall. UDC also improved to 4-0 at home this season.

The Wildcats, making the trip from Amherst, NY, lost its 7th straight game to fall to 4-10 overall and 2-5 in the conference.

Daemen's Pascal Kuhn scored off a Giacomo Bacigalupo corner kick right around the six-minute mark to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead. Kuhn capitalized on the corner kick opportunity after Daemen had taken the first three shots of the game, as the Wildcats came out aggressive to start the game.

UDC responded nearly eight minutes later as sophomore forward Michel Egbame – the hero in the Firebirds' 2-1 overtime win at Roberts Wesleyan Saturday – finished a beautiful cross from the far left corner to the back post by sophomore defender Pablo Basarte. Egbame's 2nd goal in as many games evened the score, one-apiece.

Less than two minutes later, Pacano struck for the first of his three goals to put UDC in front, 2-1. The goal was the result of a nice run down the right sideline by Egbame and a nice touch pass by freshman midfielder Pierre LaNoire.

Later, with about 20 minutes remaining in the first half, Basarte once again created havoc from the left corner. After beating a defender, he sent in a cross to a cutting Kelvin Herrera, who was immediately tripped up by a Daemen defender as soon as he touched the ball, resulting in a penalty kick. Pacano then punched in the penalty kick goal to put UDC ahead, 3-1.

The Wildcats, however, would make it a one-goal game on a breakaway score by Noah Keem with a little under 10 minutes to go before intermission. Keem stripped a UDC player right around midfield, took three long dribbles and ripped a shot past UDC goalkeeper, Milton Diaz to make the score, 3-2, and that's how it would stay as the two teams headed to the locker rooms after a wild first half.

Both teams settled down, defensively in the 2nd half, as each team managed only one goal apiece. The Firebirds would strike first, just shy of 17 minutes in, on another penalty kick by Pacano for an insurance goal that proved to be the gamewinner. Egbame, driving on a breakaway, drew the foul just inside the box that resulted in the Pacano's 2nd PK goal of the day.

Still, Daemen would not go away without a fight, scoring a 3rd goal with just over 10 minutes remaining in regulation to once again pull within one. Niklas Ringdahl Bohlin, the Wildcats' most active offensive player on the day with seven shots (five on goal), sent in a cross from the left side of the field, and when a UDC defender tried to chest it down and control it, he was called for a handball in the box, and Daemen was awarded a penalty kick. Ringdahl Bohlin took the penalty kick and blasted a shot to the left corner of the net for a Wildcat goal.

UDC possessed the ball for much of the remaining 10 minutes in regulation, taking the final three shots and two corner kicks of the game by either team in that span. The Firebirds held on to win by a one-goal margin, 4-3.

Firebirds' freshman goalkeeper Milton Diaz improved to 4-2 on the season as he stopped five of eight shots faced in a complete game effort. Senior defender Michael Agboola was also credited with a critical defensive save on an open-goal opportunity for Daemen early in the first half. Daemen's freshman goalkeeper Ryan Moretta, making his collegiate goalkeeping debut, stopped 10 out of 14 shots faced in the loss.

With today's win, UDC ties Bridgeport for the 3rd best record in the conference. Mercy College is atop the ECC standings at 5-1 heading into its 7:30 p.m. game tonight vs. Roberts Wesleyan, and three teams – St. Thomas Aquinas College, LIU Post and Queens College – have a 5-2 league record.

Next up, UDC will travel to Sparkill, NY to take on St. Thomas Aquinas, Sat., Oct. 20 at 1 p.m.