TAMPA – Florida Southern's defense was tested several times throughout the night Saturday at the University of Tampa, but each time it had the correct answer. The Spartans, however, had no answer for one Florida Southern defender in particular. Foster Appiah not only helped the Moccasins post their seventh shutout of the season, the junior center back also scored the only goal of the match with an unstoppable blast into the upper reaches of the net, giving 9th-ranked Florida Southern a 1-0 win for the best start in team history.
Appiah's goal came four minutes into the second half and it held up the rest of the night as Florida Southern improved to 9-0 overall and 4-0 in the Sunshine State Conference. The 9-0 start under second-year head coach Jason Carlson is the best in school history, surpassing the 8-0 and 8-0-1 start by the 1997 team. The nine straight wins also equal the longest overall winning streak the Mocs have ever had, with the only other occurrence coming after Florida Southern won the final game of 1996 and the first eight of 1997.
Goalkeeper Benny Yusufoglu made a season-high eight saves, just one off his career-high, to keep Tampa (1-4-3, 1-3) off the board. That dropped both his and the team's goals against average to 0.22, which by the end of the weekend could be the lowest in the country.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Tampa was put under immediate pressure, with goalkeeper Jake Richards forced to come off his line and smother a loose ball just seconds after the opening kickoff. Christoph Gums then put a shot high over the bar two minutes later.
- The Spartans countered with Rojay Smith sending a pair of dangerous crosses into the box in the first five minutes, but Tampa was unable to convert them into shots. When the Spartans did find room to shoot, their first three in the seventh, 10th, and 14th minutes came from outside the penalty area and were right at Yusufoglu.
- The Moccasins had a golden opportunity in the 17th minute when the Spartans turned the ball over in their own back third, but Tampa defender Adrian Constantine blocked a shot by James Meehan at the left post. The Mocs were unable to do anything with the corner kick, but got the ball right back for another attack that was started by Gums. That set up Pablo Gallo Arias for a shot on the opposite side that was just wide into the outside netting.
- The best first-half scoring chance for Tampa came in the 24th minute when Juancho Fernandez was on the receiving end of a pass from Mike Schessel at the edge of the six-yard box but had his running shot saved by Yusufoglu at the near post.
- As the first half reached its final stages, Florida Southern spent most of the final 10 minutes on the Tampa side of the field, out-shooting the Spartans 4-0 during that stretch. Richards made one save against Ian McIntosh, Appiah had a strong shot from long distance carry too high, and Julian Jordan-Canosa rocketed one off the crossbar with 12 seconds off the clock following a Gums free kick.
- Just as they did in the first half, the Moccasins came out gunning in the second and immediately put Richards to the test. Just 25 seconds after the kickoff, the Spartan goalkeeper was forced into action by Meehan and made a challenging save at the near post that barely kept the game scoreless. There was nothing Richards could do on the next one though. At the 49-minute mark, after the Spartans had briefly cleared a corner kick, Appiah stepped up to a loose ball on the right side of the field and ripped a shot into the upper left corner for the first goal of his career.
- The Moccasins did not have another opportunity to score until the 69th minute when a ball played by Arias set up McIntosh from the top of the box, but for the second time in the game, they were denied not by the goalkeeper but the crossbar.
- Limited to only one shot through the first 25 minutes of the second half, Tampa finally had a strong scoring chance in the 71st minute, but the shot by Travis Foster was blocked by Jake Starling. In the 74th minute, the Spartans again had a good look at the goal, but this time it was Appiah blocking a shot by Rojay Smith.
- Yusufoglu came up big for Florida Southern on a Tampa breakaway in the 77th minute. After first stopping the close-range shot by Fernandez at the end of the run, he recovered quickly to grab the deflected ball in mid-air before Fernandez could take another one. Yusufoglu was again up to the task in the 81st minute, stopping a 12-yard shot by Julius Becker, who also had to contend with Appiah and Daniel Moore.
- Yusufoglu wasn't quite finished. The sophomore goalkeeper made his final save with 20 seconds on the clock, and after that, it was fittingly Appiah who stopped Tampa's last-chance attack as the final seconds ran off the clock.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Florida Southern's 9-game winning streak has tied the longest in team history, and it is the longest for a single season. The Mocs, however, are still one short of the longest unbeaten streak, which includes draws. The Moccasins went 7-0-3 over a 10-game stretch spanning the 1967-68 seasons, and 9-0-1 spanning 1996-97.
- Before scoring his goal, Appiah had not taken a shot this season prior to Saturday night.
- Florida Southern is one of four undefeated, untied teams remaining in Division II. The others are 10-0 Palm Beach Atlantic, 9-0 Simon Fraser (BC), and 9-0 Young Harris (GA). There was one additional team going into Saturday night, but Southern New Hampshire suffered its first loss, falling to Adelphi 4-2. There were also five other teams that entered the weekend undefeated but with one tie on their record.
- Yusufoglu's seventh shutout gets him within four of Cliff Dixon's team record from 1997. Dixon had six shutouts through the first nine games that year. Yusufoglu also has nine shutouts in his career, tying him with Brian Bain (1966-69) for fourth on Florida Southern's all-time list.
- Tampa out-shot Florida Southern 12-11, but Yusufoglu had eight saves. Richards stopped two shots for Tampa.
- Florida Southern has not allowed a goal in the first half in any of its nine games this year. The Mocs started a back line of Appiah, Moore, Starling, and Claus Lehland against Tampa.
- Florida Southern had been 1-19-1 in games played at the University of Tampa prior to Saturday. The Moccasins' only previous win on the Spartans' home field had been a 3-0 decision in 1999. The Moccasins have now beaten the Spartans in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1977-78, and are 4-2-2 against UT since 2013.
Florida Southern opens a three-game home-stand on Wednesday night when it hosts Florida Tech at 7 p.m. The Panthers are currently ranked No. 19 in Division II, but lost their first game of the week to Nova Southeastern before beating Saint Leo tonight.