Max Stiegwardt picked a hell of a time to score his first goal of the season.
The senior curved a free kick into the back of the net with 13 seconds to go in the second overtime to give the top-seeded and #7-ranked UCF Knights a 3-2 victory over the UConn Huskies in the American Athletic Conference Semifinals at the UCF Soccer Complex Thursday night.
It did not look good for UCF in the first half, as they fell down 2-0 before the break.
But Yoni Sorokin got the Knights back in it three minutes into the second half with his fourth goal of the year to halve the lead. Then, with less than ten minutes to go in regulation, Cal Jennings scored arguably the most important goal of the nation’s-second-best 20 he’s scored this year:
80' | GOAL!!! @UCF_MSoccer finds the equalizer to tie it at 2-2! Offensive Player of the Year Cal Jennings receives the ball in the box, turns and blasts it past the GK for his 20th goal of the season! #AmericanMSoc Championship | Semifinal— American MSoccer (@American_MSoc) November 9, 2018
The Knights peppered UConn’s net with 33 shots on the night, but barely missed on a few occasions in extra time. But with just a few second left before PKs, a scrum in the corner resulted in a pair of yellow cards getting doled out - one to Sorokin and another to UConn’s Josh Barnett.
The resulting free kick gave Stiegwardt one last chance to end it before leaving it to penalties:
110' | GOAL!!! @UCF_MSoccer completes the comeback victory with a 2OT score in the final 13 seconds!!! Max Stiegwardt curls it in on a free kick! It'll be a battle between the No. 1 and 2 seeds in the 2018 #AmericanMSoc Championship match on Saturday when UCF takes on SMU ! pic.twitter.com/Q8wdHP0uBp— American MSoccer (@American_MSoc) November 9, 2018
The hero, afterwards:
Head coach Scott Calabrese seemed likewise astonished post-match:
It’s now nine wins in a row for the Knights, who are now 20-3-3 in their last 26 matches.
Next Up: SMU in the Championship
The Knights now face 2-seed and defending AAC Champs SMU in the final, who knocked of Memphis, also in double-OT, in the semis:
103' | GOAL!!!!! Philip Ponder flicks it in with his foot just under the crossbar to score the game-winner in double OT! @SMUSoccerM is heading back to the #AmericanMSoc Championship game to defend its title. pic.twitter.com/Wal3grhyZS— American MSoccer (@American_MSoc) November 9, 2018
UCF will have to play without Sorokin, the conference midfielder of the year, after he was sent off for his second yellow just prior to the golden goal. Walker Dawkins also suffered an injury late, so his status is currently uncertain for Saturday.
The Knights knocked off SMU 2-0 earlier this year, and look to avenge their 2-1 loss to the Mustangs in last year’s American Athletic Conference Championship Match - again in double overtime:
The Championship will take place at the UCF Soccer Complex at 7 p.m. on Saturday, and will be televised on ESPN3. But this gives you, dear Knight fan, a golden opportunity to check out some futbol after the UCF-Navy football game, slated for noon that day.