At long last, after three straight years of losing to them in the American Athletic Conference Championship Final - twice in extra time - the UCF Knights finally knocked the SMU Mustangs off their horse, and it took a masterpiece by goalkeeper Yannick Oettl to do it.
Oettl withstood a 26-shot onslaught from the Mustangs, saving every one of their nine attempts on goal (a career high), and only allowing a penalty kick to get past him in 110 minutes of play.
His efforts forced the game to a penalty shootout, where Gino Vivi finally gave the Knights the win in the final round:
The win puts UCF in the Championship Match on Saturday at 7 p.m. against Tulsa, who also needed penalty kicks to knock out Temple earlier in the day.
Scott Calabrese said after the game that this was the greatest performance by a goalkeeper he’s ever seen:
The conquering hero was businesslike as usual after the match:
To SMU’s credit, they took advantage of UCF’s aggressiveness and mounted well-timed and well-placed counter-attacks, but Oettl was more than up to the task.
UCF’s only goal in regulation came on a brilliant feed from Vivi to freshman Lucca Dourado in the second half:
✌️ goals for the rookie this season, both against SMU! pic.twitter.com/Df32QdejQh— UCF Men's Soccer (@UCF_MSoccer) April 16, 2021
Five minutes later, SMU tied it on a penalty kick that Oettl couldn’t get. But the native son of Munich saved some of his best work for extra time:
102’ | THIS MAN IS A BRICK WALL!— UCF Men's Soccer (@UCF_MSoccer) April 16, 2021
We’re still level on double OT pic.twitter.com/8vJGzRU2dw
In the PK round, SMU missed missed the net on its first and last opportunities. With one UCF attempt already saved, it came down to Vivi on the tenth and final attempt of the shootout, and he did not disappoint:
The win for UCF was their third this year against their traditional bugaboo. Despite the Knights winning the conference regular season title three years in a row, UCF had beaten the Mustangs only once in the previous seven times they faced them prior to this season, including in each of the three previous conference championship matches, as well as a third-round game in the NCAA Tournament that ended the Knights’ 2019 season.
With that hurdle now surmounted, UCF will have to break another streak on Saturday against Tulsa if they want to be guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Hurricane handed the Knights two of their three losses in the regular season, including the Knights’ season opener at home (1-0), and UCF’s most recent loss back on February 27th (3-1), although Oettl was out for that game with an injury. UCF’s last win over Tulsa was a 3-2 OT victory in the 2019 regular season.
The match is set for Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET and will be televised on ESPN+.