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Memphis Tiger men’s soccer upsets No.3 SMU in an overtime thriller

<p>The Memphis Tigers prepare to start the match. The Tigers are 9-3-0 on the year, and have two wins against top-10 opponents this year.</p>
The Memphis Tigers prepare to start the match. The Tigers are 9-3-0 on the year, and have two wins against top-10 opponents this year.

After a combined seven goals by both teams, Memphis Tigers men’s soccer (9-0-3, 3-1-0 American Athletic Conference) were able to upset the undefeated No. 3-ranked SMU Mustangs (10-1-1, 2-1-1 AAC) in Dallas last Friday by the score of 4-3. Memphis was able to extend their road winning streak to five contests, breaking a program record.

The Tigers were favored against in the match-up where the Mustangs were one of seven undefeated teams in the country at the time. SMU had allowed only six goals entering the match-up and held .053 goals allowed average. Despite a stingy defense, Gurman Sangha, Jackson Morse, Peter Chang and Artur de Luca were the goal scorers. 

Richard Mulrooney, head coach, knew his team were able to compete with the highly ranked foe, and the history so far this year has made the team ready for the matchup.

“I think the guys are starting to learn from the experiences of the season so far, the overtime games that we’ve had, we’ve been down in games and we’ve been up in games,” Mulrooney said. “So, to be on the road with a quality SMU team, I think the guys earned that tonight, albeit a tough one.”

The Tigers stifled a quality Mustang offense in the first half focusing primarily on defense. Limited counter attacks paid off in the final seconds of the first half, as Chang controlled a cleared ball to SMU’s half to send in a cross to Sangha. The sophomore then garnered space outside the 18-yard box with 26 seconds left in the half for the lead. It was the third time this campaign where the Mustangs did not score first.

SMU retaliated in the 55th minute and then took the lead just 11 minutes afterwards. After the Mustangs seemed to control most of the second half, Memphis equalized in the 81st minute via a header from the Dallas native, Morse. The visiting side pulled a stunner after Chang slid the ball in after Chris Mikus took the keeper from outside his goal.

Not even a minute later, SMU placed a pin-perfect long ball into past Memphis goalkeeper, Parker Lackland. Despite allowing three goals, the Dallas native saved four shots from the second-best offense in the nation.

In overtime, the Tigers showed they overcame a double overtime loss from Temple in their last contest as they scored in just 52 seconds.

After winning an early corner kick, Christoforos Kourtis laid an accurate cross to 6’2’’ De Luca who connected on the header for the dagger. The Brazilian secured Memphis’ highest-ranked win in school history. Despite being outshot 18-9, the Tigers had all their shots on target in route to the upset. Mulrooney did not have Sam Ashton, the team’s leading goal scorer with 9 tallies, but he was happy the offense thrived on teamwork. In past seasons, Memphis relied on certain numbers to get the ball past the net, but now multiple players can get the job done.

“In past years, where we would rely on certain guys to score all the goals or get assists, this year it’s a committee of who’s going to get the cross in, and who’s going to finish it,” Mulrooney said.


What’s Next?


The win put the Tigers into first place in the AAC as they look to continue a historic season. Mulrooney enjoyed the atmosphere with emotions running high, but he looks to continue the team’s improvement.

“But the emotion of it, sitting on the sideline, it was incredible, the ups and downs.,” Mulrooney said. “I don’t want to go through too many more of those this year, but I’m happy for the guys and we’re going to enjoy this one for a bit.

Memphis returns home Tuesday night to finish their non conference slate against Central Arkansas. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Billy J. Murphy Sports Complex.

The Memphis Tigers prepare to start the match. The Tigers are 9-3-0 on the year, and have two wins against top-10 opponents this year.

Jackson Morse, Ben Roberts and Luke Biasi (left to right) celebrate a goal against UAB. Morse, a senior, recorded a goal in a win over SMU.

Artur de Luca listens to the coaches' instructions from the sidelines during a match against Temple. De Luca earned AAC Offensive Player of the Week Honors for having the golden goal against SMU and recorded an assist in a 4-3 win. 

Gurman Sangha fights for space in a game against UAB. Sangha recorded a goal and an assist in a 4-3 win over No.3- SMU, and he now has three goals and three assists on the year.

Peter Chang takes a shot in a game against Temple. Chang earned AAC Rookie of the Week honors for having a goal and two assists in the 4-3 win over No.3-SMU.

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