Despite a first half surge and a 7-3 shots on goal advantage, UCF (0-3) came up short in its home opener on Wednesday night, falling 3-1 to Florida Gulf Coast (3-2-1).
“It was tough tonight. Unfortunately, we’re learning bad lessons on the fly and losing,” Knights head coach Bryan Cunningham said. “We’ve just got to flip that script a little bit. It’s okay to learn some lessons, but we need to learn some lessons and win.”
The Knights controlled possession early, getting shots on goal from Neico Regent, Javier Clavijo and Matias Pyysalo. FGCU goalkeeper Sawyer Jackman stopped all four shots he faced in the first half, but it looked like UCF was gaining momentum near the end of the half. However, Dennis Zapata found the back of the net in the 40th minute to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead right before the break .
“Unfortunately, a hot goalkeeper makes four great saves there in the first half,” Cunningham said. “Here, we’re thinking we might go into the half 1-0 up, and unfortunately we go one down.”
Coming out of halftime, neither team was able to find much of an edge until Robert Ferrer beat Matt Rosenberg in the 57th minute to extend the FGCU lead to 2-0. From there, the Eagles kept the momentum as Ferrer hit the crossbar right before Arion Sobers-Assue beat the keeper with a header in the 65th minute.
The Knights were able to end the Eagles’ shutout hopes in the 74th minute when freshman Jesus Colombo took a pass from Richard Amon and put it into the net for his first career goal. They continued to put pressure on late in the game, but couldn’t come up with anything else.
After a long road trip to start the season that saw two losses and two cancellations, UCF is back home for the next three weeks. The Knights got their homestand off to a rough start on Wednesday, but they will continue to feed off the energy provided by the home fans.
“All credit to the Knights Watch supporters and the people that were out there tonight,” Cunningham said. “We need them. Hopefully, they keep coming out and supporting us.”
UCF will continue its homestand on Saturday with a noon matchup against Jacksonville.