The Winthrop men’s unbeaten start to the soccer season skidded to an abrupt stop Tuesday at Eagle Field against the College of Charleston. Winthrop fought back from a goal behind in the second half but fell 2-1 to its first defeat when Tucker Coons’ deflected blast from the top of the penalty area flew past a stranded Guilherme Avilar in the Winthrop goal with three minutes left.
“Those guys worked hard,” said Winthrop coach Rich Posipanko, nodding toward the visitors’ bench. “I thought we let that game slip away. We just didn’t finish the chances we had.”
Even after Coons’ late strike, the Eagles (7-1-1) manufactured a pair of chances in the last 30 seconds. Adam Brundle floated in a free kick that was fisted away by Charleston keeper Alex Young. It was knocked back into the penalty area and Winthrop striker Achille Obougou took a full swing at the ball while falling down, but whiffed and the Cougars (2-6) thumped clear, preserving only their second win of what’s been a difficult campaign so far.
“We needed that so bad,” said Ralph Lundy, the Cougars’ longtime coach.
Charleston, a traditionally strong program, entered the game on the back of a five-match losing skid, in which the Cougars mustered a solitary goal. Charleston had scored just twice in seven games this season, while the Eagles had banged in 23 goals in eight matches and entered Tuesday 31st in the NCAA men’s soccer RPI ranking.
“At the start of the match we were very lucky, because they were very good,” Lundy said. “Then we settled down and from that point on it was just who was gonna strike one.”
The visitors did so first. Thirty minutes in, Charleston striker Adan Noel benefited from a mix-up at the back post, stepping between a defender and Avilar to slot into an empty net.
Winthrop had to scramble with starting center back Jordi Lluch out. His replacement, Josh Choice, went off with an injured ankle 20 minutes in, but former Fort Mill standout Walker Johnson filled in solidly.
Winthrop appeared to seize control of the game 15 minutes into the second half. C.J. Miller proved an inspired second-half substitution, as the speedy left-sided midfielder troubled the Cougars’ rearguard with his speed and dangerous low services into the box. One such drilled cross found freshman forward Max Hasenstab unmarked in the box and the German slotted home after digging the ball out from under his feet to tie the match in the 61st minute.
Just when it seemed like the Eagles would blow by the Cougars, Lundy’s team bucked up. Charleston had been outscored 6-0 in the second halves of games this season, no surprise with 13 underclassmen on the roster, but the Cougars showed pluck to continue fighting and got their just reward when Coons blasted in the winner.
“I’m from Charleston, so tides are pretty important, high tide and low tide,” Lundy said. “I think at the 60-minute mark I thought they grabbed the game, but I thought at the 80-minute mark, we grabbed the game. But that’s the way the whole game was.”
Lundy had kind words afterward for Jim Casada, who started the Winthrop soccer program and was introduced to the home fans before the match.
“Jim Casada was one of the greatest guys there ever was, is, is,” Lundy said, “and so is Rich Posipanko.”
The Eagles’ coach wasn’t in quite as cheerful a mood afterward.
“I’m upset because we lost a game at home that we should’ve won, but at the end of the day, you look at the start – what are we, 7-1-1? – we’re in good shape,” he said.
Charleston 2, Winthrop 1
31’ CC Adan Noel
61’ W Max Hasenstab
88’ CC Tucker Coons