8:45:54:UK vs. Florida Atlantic

The whole team surrounds Kentucky Wildcats midfielder Bailey Rouse (18) after his goal during the University of Kentucky vs. Florida Atlantic men’s soccer game on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, at Wendell & Vickie Bell Soccer Complex in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 3-0. Photo by Amanda Braman | Staff

Kentucky men’s soccer defeated FAU 2-1 in overtime to clinch their second Conference-USA championship in program history. The win earns the Cats an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

The Wildcats outshot the Owls 13-5 in attempts and 7-2 in shots on target en route to the victory. Eythor Bjorgolfsson was named offensive MVP of the tournament, having scored the game-winning goal in the match, also recording the dagger in the Wildcats’ win over Coastal Carolina. Bjorgolfsson tied Luke Andrews and Daniel Evans as the Wildcats’ leading scorers with five goals.

Kentucky entered the matchup fresh off their 3-0 semi-final win over the top-seeded FIU. Both Andrews and Evans recorded their fifth goals of the season, with Evans scoring twice in the win.

FAU got the first touch of the championship match, though the Wildcats quickly took control. The Cats put up the first shot on target of the match in the 3’, once again looking for an early goal, but FAU goalie Neil Strauber was able to make the save.

The Owls would end up drawing first blood in the 16’ when Ivan Mykhailenko got one past UK goalie Jan Hoffelner following a beautiful cross by Pontus Steffensen. Jose Alastuey was also credited with an assist on the play. The goal marked the first time the Wildcats have trailed in the tournament. 

Entering the break, both teams were tied in shot attempts 3-3, while Kentucky led in shots on target 2-1. FAU’s lead marked the first time this season Kentucky found themselves trailing at the half.

The Owls defense continued to prevent a goal for the Wildcats early in the second half, but made a critical error in the 60’, as FAU’s Alonso Coello Camarero fouled Kentucky’s Marcel Meinzer, awarding a penalty kick to UK.

Meinzer did not waste the opportunity, promptly scoring the equalizer for the Wildcats and tying the game at one.. The goal was Meinzer’s first of the season.

 

Kentucky would dominate the game going forward, outshooting the Owls 9-1 in attempts and 4-1 in shots on target in the second half. Despite their dominance on the box score, they were unable to find the net before the end of the 90’,  sending the match to overtime.

Both teams had an opportunity to strike in overtime, with the Owls making an attempt first. FAU recorded their first corner kick of the match which led to a shot attempt by Coello Camarero that nearly sent the Owls to their first ever NCAA Tournament, but it just narrowly missed left. 

Off the subsequent goal kick by Hoffelner,  Bjorgolfsson scored the title-clinching goal in the 4’ of overtime, thanks to an assist by Enzo Mauriz.

Kentucky’s win guarantees them a spot in the NCAA Tournament, though their placement remains undecided. The Wildcats are in a good position to be ranked in the top 16, which would give them a first round bye and a home game in the second round. 

The tournament bracket is set to be released on Monday, Nov. 15.