There's a first time for everything.
For UK men’s soccer midfielder Robert Screen, it was scoring his first-ever goal as a Wildcat.
When the Cats’ faced the Ohio State Buckeyes at The Bell on Wednesday night, Buckeyes’ defender Chase Thiel committed a foul in the 79th minute. Down 1-0, that gave the Cats a free kick to shoot from the top of the box.
Who did they call on? Not their scoring machine in Kalil Elmedkhar, but an unlikely sophomore hero: Screen.
Screen scored the game-tying goal on that free kick in the 80th minute. The score opened the door for a comeback as ElMedkhar scored four minutes later to seal the deal on the Cats’ 2-1 late-comeback victory.
“You have to look at his [Screen’s] overall playing time. He didn’t play as much time as he wanted to, but I think for him he’s playing wherever the team needs him,” Cats’ assistant coach Josh Oldroyd said after the game on Screen.
Indeed, Screen played in only eight games last season as a reserve. This season, he’s played in nine of the Cats’ 12 games thus far. However, he’s started in the Cats’ last five games, including Wednesday night’s victory. With the additional repetitions, Oldroyd said Screen had that moment in the making.
“We’ve had him [Screen] work on set pieces all the time. Every single day and every single pregame they work on set pieces quite a lot. Robert is one of the guys that can take and shoot free kicks.” Oldroyd said.
Despite the Cats outshooting OSU in the first half 8-1, the Buckeyes still kept up and took the lead in the 53rd minute. Screen says that was a wake-up call.
“The goal that they scored woke us up a little bit. After that, we were much more aggressive. We were much better on both sides of the ball. It was coming. Everyone knew we were going to get one,” Screen said after the game.
Thus, leading into the goal, Screen stepped up and delivered.
“I was just trying to get forward a little more. We were good at crosses in and finishing off of them. I knew with the outside midfielders we had, they’re not really wingers. So, I had to get outside and put the cross in myself.”
Should Screen continue to maintain momentum, the Cats may have just found a gem in their depth.