Junior midfielder Ben Strong scored two goals as the fifth-ranked Louisville men’s soccer team found its offensive stride in Saturday night’s 5-0 victory over Duke in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener at Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium.
With a crowd of 3,959 on hand, the Cardinals (2-1-1, 1-0-0 ACC) connected for a pair of goals in the first six minutes of action and finished the night with their highest goal-scoring performance since a 5-0 win over Winthrop in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Championship (11/18/12) at Cardinal Park. The win ended a two-match winless streak for Louisville, which scored just one goal in the first three matches of the season.
“I was proud of the guys and how we responded. The last two games, I thought we played well up until the final third and just weren’t sharp. We challenged the guys to be a little bit better and tonight, I thought we were good in the final third,” explained Louisville head coach Ken Lolla after Saturday’s win over his alma mater. “I thought big portions of the game were similar to the last two in that we moved the ball well into the final third. I think the difference this game was just our intent and focus and finishing in the final third.”
A transfer from Virginia Tech playing in his first season with the Cardinals, Strong (Mendham, N.J.) connected for his first two goals in the Louisville uniform. With the Cardinals already leading 1-0, Strong pushed the advantage to 2-0 in the sixth minute of action when he controlled a deflected cross from the right side and beat Duke (2-2-1, 0-1-0 ACC) goalkeeper Joe Ohaus from 12 yards out for the two-goal cushion.
Strong’s second tally of the night came early in the second half when he took a pass up the middle from junior Ricardo Velazco (Casa Grande, Ariz.) and scored inside the right post past a charging Ohaus for the Cardinals’ fourth goal of the night. The performance by Strong marked the first two-goal outing for the Cardinals since Oct. 6, 2013 when Velazco scored both goals in a 2-0 win at SMU.
Louisville started the scoring on Saturday in the fourth minute of play when senior Will Vitalis (Crestwood, Ky.) delivered a fantastic heal kick goal inside the left post from six yards away after taking a cross from the right from freshman Tim Kubel (Stuttgart, Germany). It was the sixth career goal for Vitalis and the first career assist for Kubel.
After Strong’s first goal of the night gave Louisville the 2-0 lead, senior Santiago Vélez (Longmont, Colo.) pushed the advantage to 3-0 in the 40th minute when he collected a deflection off a Duke player inside the 18-yard box and scored inside the right post for his first goal of the season and the second of his career. The final goal of the night came in the 67th minute when sophomore Romilio Hernandez (Lanham, Md.) took a pass from sophomore Andrew Brody (Orlando, Fla.) and scored inside the left post from 10 yards out for his first collegiate score.
Defensively for the Cardinals, senior goalkeeper Joachim Ball (Villingen-Schwenninge, Germany) made four saves to earn his third shutout of the season and the 12th of his career. Ohaus made just four saves for the Blue Devils while allowing all five Louisville goals. Louisville finished with a 15-10 advantage in shots, including a 9-4 edge on goal. The Cardinals also had a 6-2 advantage in corner kicks.
Up next, No. 5 Louisville takes to the road for an ACC matchup at Boston College on Friday at 7 p.m.
Single Game, Season Tickets on Sale
Single game tickets for Louisville’s debut season at Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium and in the ACC are available through the UofL Ticket Office and can be purchased online through My Cardinal Account at https://oss.ticketmaster.com/
Season tickets, which will provide admission to both men’s and women’s regular season matches, remain on sale through the UofL Ticket Office. Visit GoCards.com to learn more about 2014 Louisville soccer season tickets. Group tickets for all Louisville matches can be requested by completing the group ticket application at http://www.gocards.com/sports/