CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland State University men's soccer team returned home for the first time in three weeks and got back in the win column with a 2-1 triumph over Wright State in Horizon Leauge action at a chilly Krenzler Field Saturday evening.
With the three points and other results in the League, Cleveland State clinched a berth in the upcoming League tournament with one match to spare.
The Vikings scored a pair of goals in the second half, through sophomore Lawrence Karpeh and senior Kareem Banton, within 16 minutes of one another to take control of the match. The Raiders scored in the final two minutes to make the finish more eventful, but the hosts were able to see out the three points.
With one of his regular starters unavailable for the match, head coach Kirk Harwat made two changes to the starting XI from last time out, reinserting Banton and Nagucki back into the squad.
Cleveland State started the match well, controlling the ball in the very early going. An effort from Hammouda after strong buildup was wide left.
After weathering the Vikings early, Wright State soon was able to create a few chances. In the 12th minute, CSU didn't deal with a cross well, leaving a bouncing ball in the box. Redshirt junior Pavle Majerle came out to snuff a shot at close range and then was able to hold on to it as well.
A couple minutes later, freshman defender Dan Manolache made a key tackle as the last defender back to prevent a great look for the Raiders.
In the second half of the opening frame, neither side generated many real scoring chances, keeping the match scoreless until intermission.
Similar to the first half, Cleveland State started fast in the second stanza, getting a number of crosses into the area.
In the 60th minute, the hosts would pull ahead due to the work of multiple individuals. Junior Gianluca DiFranco took a throw-in near the right flank and then played Hammouda toward the box. Hammouda switched field across to Banton who then played ahead to Pio near the edge of the area on the left.
Pio waited before sending a cross toward the face of goal. Hammouda was able to flick the ball brilliantly toward goal before Karpeh was able to tap the ball on its way over the line.
Fewer than two minutes later, Majerle made a great diving save, fully extended to his right, to steer a Raider blast off target.
Cleveland State would get a crucial second goal with just under 15 minutes left. Nagucki won the ball near the center circle before playing on to Pio. Pio dribbled forward before slipping a through ball behind the defense that Banton's overlapping run was able to reach in stride. Banton calmly finished to the far post with a low shot.
After falling behind 2-0, Wright State really pushed forward, as it took 10 shots over the final 12 minutes. Majerle made three stops in that stretch to keep the Raiders at bay before they broke through late on in the proceedings.
Less than a minute after junior Jordan Ianiro hit the post for CSU, a Viking turnover in its own half was immediately punished as the visitors struck with a long-distance effort. However, Cleveland State was still able to see out the win.
CSU has now qualified for the League tournament in eight of the nine years since the format changed and six teams made the tournament.
The Vikings, who are now 7-1-1 in their last nine at home, have won nine of their past 12 matches against Wright State.
Karpeh's goal was his second of the season and sixth of his career while Banton's strike was the defender's first since his rookie campaign.
Pio's third and fourth assists of the season gave him a team-leading 12 points. He has scored or assisted on CSU's last five goals in League play.
Hammouda now owns three assists this season while Nagucki picked up his first of 2017.
Majerle posted his first collegiate win between the posts.
Cleveland State could still be seeded anywhere from second to sixth depending on the final slate of matches next weekend. The Vikings would need at least a tie to move up into a top-four position and would need a win to have any chance at the second seed.
With its October slate complete, Cleveland State closes the regular season next Friday, Nov. 3, as it hosts Detroit Mercy at 7:00 p.m.