MORGANTOWN, W.Va — Nothing ushers fall weather in better than the beginning of fall sports. For new Mountaineer head coach Dan Stratford, nothing ushers in fall sports better than knocking off the no. 3 team in the country at home.
The unranked Mountaineers were on a win streak coming into the second game of the 2021 season against No. 3 Pittsburgh. The 50th meeting of the Men’s Soccer Backyard Brawl commenced in front of 1,316 fans and a bevy of free cowbells… and the energy only intensified from there.
The crowd at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium went berserk when, in the 21st minute, WVU junior midfielder Luke McCormick put the first point on the board. A quick bounce off the hands of Pitt goalkeeper Nico Campuzano was all it took for WVU senior forward Yoran Popovic to free the ball from his clutches. A split second later, McCormick found the back of the Panthers’ net.
Mountaineer fans, steadily warming to Stratford’s upbeat and energetic coaching style, didn’t expect that 1-0 lead to hold going into the second half. The Panthers went into the second half with a huge corner kicking problem; had even one of the five attempts in the first half gone in, it would have been anyone’s game. Instead, the Mountaineers capitalized on that weakness, keeping the ball far away from Mountaineer senior goalkeeper Steven Tekesky’s hands. Tekesky finished the half with zero saves, while Pitt registered four shots on goal.
Entering the second half, the Mountaineer faithful watched the stadium lights come on as Stratford’s team emerged from the locker room. A dominant first half performance had the crowd buzzing and the cowbells clanging loudly. That home-town enthusiasm didn’t stop the Panthers from attempting a rush, and a successful one at that.
In the 49th minute, Panther grad student Alexander Dexter scored his first goal of the season, tying the game at one. A quick nail biter rocket off the foot of Pitt freshman midfielder Guiherme Feitosa in the 67th minute sent Tekesky flying through the air for a save, his second of the game.
In the 76th minute, the Mountaineers solidified the win, after a chip off sophomore midfielder Ryan Baer’s foot found senior forward’s Adam Burchell’s head, and, consequently, the back of the net. Now 2-1 in favor of the Mountaineers, the game got progressively scrappier, resulting in three second half yellow cards. WVU tallied three yellows to Baer —in a controversial first half ruling—freshman defender Frederik Jorgensen, and fifth year midfielder Pau Jimenez Albelda, while Pitt went home with a single yellow given to sophomore forward Bertin Jacquesson.
The Panthers attempted four more unsuccessful corner kicks in the second half, clawing desperately for a win under the lights in Morgantown. It wasn’t to be, as Dan Stratford’s Mountaineers found themselves 2-0 on the season.
— Julia Mellett (@JuliaMellett) August 31, 2021
“We never questioned if this group had enough quality and depth – it’s about doing it when it really counts on a big night like tonight,” Stratford said.
“This was one of the most exciting crowds that I’ve been a part of. I remember playing in this type of atmosphere, and it makes a huge difference. You saw some of that passion and energy come out in our players, as well.”
This win marks the highest-ranked opponent WVU has beaten since No. 1 UConn on October 18, 2011.