CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland State University men's soccer team saw a 1-0 lead flip into a 2-1 loss when visiting Detroit Mercy was granted two penalty kicks inside the final 10 minutes on a chilly Friday evening at Krenzler Field in each team's regular season finale.
While CSU may have been displeased with the final result, it proved to have no bearing on Horizon League Tournament seeding from a Viking perspective. Cleveland State claimed the fifth seed in the upcoming event and will travel to fourth-seeded Wright State this Monday, Nov. 6.
Although the match did not affect CSU's seeding, the same was not true for Detroit. The Titans needed a win to have any hope of a League Tournament berth. As a result, they pushed forward in waves, especially once they fell behind. Cleveland State had a couple of chances to add an insurance goal and would prove to pay the price for not doing so.
Junior Jordan Ianiro earned his third straight start and delivered his first collegiate goal in the process. Senior Kareem Banton and junior Noah Pio assisted on the tally with both finding the scoresheet for the second consecutive match.
CSU started the same 10 field players as last time out, but head coach Kirk Harwat was forced to make a change in net with redshirt junior Pavle Majerle unavailable for the match. As a result, redshirt freshman Skylar Jeppesen made his collegiate debut.
The only real chance inside the opening 20 minutes came when Banton crossed low to junior Gianluca DiFranco, but his shot from within the box was wide to the left.
In the 22nd minute, a Titan player beat Jeppesen to the ball near the edge of the area but was unable to finish off the chance. Jeppesen made a diving stop in the 35th minute off a header after some scrambling in the box off a long throw-in.
Senior co-captain Alec Nagucki and Pio had forced saves from the UDM keeper in the 26th and 28th minutes.
Cleveland State pulled ahead just inside 40 minutes, and it started when Banton intercepted a UDM attempt to switch fields. He played ahead to Pio, who used a nifty touch to evade a defender. After dribbling, Pio returned the ball to Banton down the left flank. Banton played a bouncing cross from the edge of the box, and Ianiro beat the onrushing keeper to the ball and slid it inside the near post.
With momentum on their side out of the intermission, Cleveland State looked for a second tally. The Vikings took three shots inside three minutes and posted five of the first seven shots after the interval, but they let the guests stick around.
With the minutes ticking down in its season, Detroit threw everything they had at the Vikings. The Titans' pressure was held off initially as Jeppesen made four saves in the second half.
The complexion of the match changed in the 82nd minute when the referee awarded a penalty kick for an infraction involving two players in the box while the ball was in play near the center circle.
Needing a win, Detroit continued to press after having tied the match. The Titans were gifted a second penalty kick after a CSU tackle in the box that appeared to win the ball. The guests converted to take the lead. With under five minutes left, the Vikings did not have time to mount a comeback attempt.
Pio now has at least one point in six of the past 10 matches. He has scored or assisted on CSU's last six goals in League play. Banton now has point in back-to-back matches for the first time in his career. Ianiro is the fourth Viking to score his first goal with the program this season.
CSU has now allowed just eight goals from the run of play in its last 14 matches.
Nagucki, fellow co-captain Hesham Hammouda and Pio were the three Vikings to compete in every fixture for CSU in the regular season.
Friday's match is CSU's only loss in their last seven home meetings with the Titans.
With its home slate compete, Cleveland State will face Wright State in a quarterfinal match Monday at 7:00 p.m.