The allure of taking down a top ranked team always creates an electric atmosphere, one filled with anxiety and excitement. Players begin to feed off the vibes of the crowd, and it feels as though an extra teammate is out there with them. Texas A&M coined their home crowd at football games the “12th Man” way back in 1921, and other teams have looked to their supporters to provide that same energy. USF’s 12th Man was out in full force last Thursday when 12th ranked Stanford came to visit Negoesco.
Stanford (3-2-3) came into the 2016 season as defending champions of last years NCAA Men’s College Cup. The Cardinal came strolling into San Francisco looking for an easy win against a team that’s been struggling recently and what did they see? A sold out crowd and a team ready to prove they’re a real threat. This was a turning point for both Stanford and San Francisco, as both teams were looking to get back on track as they prepare to go into their respective conference plays.
Throughout the entire first half, the Dons offense was firing on all cylinders, keeping the Stanford back line on their heels. Whenever the visitors tried to make a push, USF’s defense showed poise and outstanding discipline by drawing the Cardinal offense offsides three times before halftime. In the first 45 minutes, San Francisco outshot Stanford 11-2. The biggest shot was in the 37th minute, a goal by freshman Jorge Ruiz, his first collegiate goal. Senior Davi Ramos fired a shot, but the Cardinal keeper extended a strong hand. As the shot bounced away, Ruiz latched on and rolled home an empty net goal to break the 0-0 deadlock. The crowd ignited in cheers and hysteria, some supporters even spilling into the sideline celebrations with the team.
The second half was slightly more competitive. In the 56th minute, junior Aaron Lombardi found senior David Garrett just outside the 6-yard box, where he smashed in his fourth goal of the season. Stanford avoided the shutout after a lucky shot deflected off of a USF defender and found the back of the net in the 87th minute. After 90 minutes of play USF looked up to a victorious 2-1 scoreline as the supporters stormed the field. This was the Dons first sellout victory in over a decade, the last coming in 2004 against Santa Clara.
San Francisco continued their success on the Sunday after their triumph over Stanford against UC Riverside (4-4-1). USF’s offense was once again barreling like a well-oiled machine, sending in 26 shots, 12 of which were on frame. It was a back-and-forth all game long as the Dons and Highlanders continued to exchange goals, the first of which came via Davi Ramos just before half in the 43rd minute. Riverside pulled level in the 73rd minute after a header off of a corner kick. The game was winding down when Lombardi bent in a corner kick for USF’s second goal in the 88th minute. The game looked over when Riverside earned their sixth corner kick of the game which produced another headed goal to even the score once again.
The first period of extra time went by in a flurry, each team taking two shots. Sophomore Sean Bowman had the best chance, when his shot ricocheted off the crossbar in the 95th minute. Both offenses seemed to exhaust in the second period of extra time. That’s when USF was able to draw a penalty in the box. Sophomore Santiago Digiuseppe cooly stepped up to the spot to take the penalty and slotted home the free kick into the bottom left corner for the golden goal game-winner in the 110th minute.
Now holding onto a 4-5 record, San Francisco looks ahead to their first taste of West Coast Conference play against Santa Clara University (4-3) on Sunday, October 9 at 7PM, here at Negoesco Stadium. Be sure to go out and support the Dons or follow live on theW.tv.
PHOTO CREDIT: DONS ATHLETICS/FLICKR