Thrilling 3-2 come-from-behind win for Dayton Flyers men’s soccer in rain-soaked home opener

In a rain-soaked night at Baujan Field, the jubilant Flyers celebrated a thrilling 3-2 win. Photo courtesy of Dayton Athletics.

Peter Burtnett | Sports Editor

In their regular season home opener Saturday night, the Dayton Flyers men’s soccer team overcame a 2-1 deficit to win 3-2 in overtime over Incarnate Word at Baujan Field.

The first half began with little excitement, and the first major moment of the game was not good: Incarnate Word freshman defender Yusuff Djebode went down with a non-contact injury that looked to potentially be an Achilles tear. 

In the 23rd minute, Djebode yelled out in serious distress off the ball and was on the ground and attended to for at least five minutes. When Djebode was carted off the field with an air cast on his right leg, the Cardinals flipped a switch.

In the 29th minute, junior midfielder Victor Velasco assisted senior midfielder Bernabe Lopez to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. 

After the Cardinals’ goal, the Flyers turned up the intensity, firing off two shots before junior forward Forster Ajago was awarded a penalty in the 39th minute, which he calmly converted with a pass into the right side of the net as the goalkeeper dove left. 

The teams exchanged shots to finish with an equal first-half total (7 each), but the score remained level, even after both teams had shots on goal from free kicks that were saved from nestling in the bottom right corner of the net.

1-1 at halftime, head coach Dennis Currier thought the team lacked accuracy in the first half. Going up against his former player at Incarnate Word and assistant coach at Dayton, Kiki Lara, Currier gave the Cardinals credit.

“I thought (Incarnate Word) came in with a great game plan,” Currier said. “We knew they were going to be motivated and I thought they did a great job.”

The game plan reached fruition in the 50th minute when a cross was mishandled by sure-handed Flyers sophomore goalkeeper Marc Kouadio (who appeared to be behind the goal line), and knocked down to the feet of Cardinals sophomore defender Anthony Vargas, who fired an easy goal into the back of the net to give the visitors a 2-1 lead. 

That lead would hold until the 86th minute, when the ball came to a charging Flyers junior defender, Ntezey Swalita, who struck the ball with venom to suddenly tie the game at 2-2. Senior winger Kingsford Adjei and junior defender Jaden Jones-Riley were credited with an assist each.

“I think first of all, what led to the (second) goal and the win overall, I think it’s mindset and effort,” Adjei said. “We know we (are a) better team, we know we can compete to the highest level, and it all comes down to the willingness to get there.”

The Flyers had a couple of frantic chances before the end of regulation, but none materialized, so the Flyers and Cardinals went into overtime level at 2-2.

“I thought our guys in the second half were playing with a lot of grit and a lot of passion and really put a lot of pressure on (Incarnate Word),” Currier said. “We started getting accurate in the second half, and I think (in) that last 15 minutes we probably put together six shots and got the goal, then the momentum kind of swung our way.”

Shortly into the first 10 minutes of potentially two overtime periods, a cross came into the box from junior defender Xavier Zengue. And in his first game back from injury, the electric Adjei put the game away. 

Currier and Adjei both credited the fans who stuck through the pouring rain at Baujan Field.

“For me and for the team, it’s always special when you have people coming out and cheering you on,” Adjei said. “They go to the same school that we go to, so when we play, we don’t just play for the team, we don’t just play for the coach, we play for the whole system. It’s a whole college and we play for the whole college when they come out.”

Adjei added that he doesn’t want to disappoint the fans who do show up when they could instead be “watching Netflix.”

“We talked about the (regular season) start here at home, and having home dominance, and this is the home opener,” Currier said. “And We obviously want to come out with a big win, and that’s what we did. But I think that the whole atmosphere for the guys, those are the moments that’s why they’re a collegiate soccer athlete and they always remember those moments.”

The Flyers certainly won’t soon forget this win, as they overcame a 2-1 deficit in the 86th minute to win 3-2 in overtime and improve to 2-0-1.

Next up: the Flyers take on Detroit Mercy at Baujan Field Monday, Sept. 6 (Labor Day) at 5 p.m.

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