The Portland Pilots topped the Syracuse Orange 2-1 under the lights of Merlo Field on Sunday night. The Pilots, coming off a disappointing draw with Sacramento State, were looking to flex their muscles with a win over the prominent ACC school.
The Pilots came out aggressive and players were flying to the ball. Junior Rey Ortiz alongside teammate sophomore midfielder Luke Hendel provided loads of energy throughout the game.
“These guys believe, they are fighters...We are a team that is going to fight till the end," head coach Nick Carlin-Voigt said.
Syracuse drew first blood with a goal coming from a successful run down the right side of the field. The goal was made by Syracuse sophomore forward Tajon Buchanan when he placed the ball past the keeper to the left post from 15 yards out.
The Pilots showed resilience as they continued to try and control the ball and pace, with an energy that lacked in the draw with Sacramento State. The equalizer came for the Pilots in the 58th minute as junior Pilot midfielder Esteban Calvo delivered a masterful touch to a jumping Pilot stricker Benji Michel who evened the game at one with a header to the right side of the goal.
“I got the ball and saw Benji in the box… I shared the ball and I saw it in slow motion," Calvo said. "It's not who scores as long as you can bring something to the team. We all win together."
The game continued to be played physical from both sides as the final tally for fouls ended at 47 amassed by both squads, 22 for the Pilots and 25 for Syracuse. The physicality would pay off for Portland late as in the 76th minute Michel was fouled hard in the box, resulting in a penalty kick for the Pilots.
Ortiz capitalized on the penalty kick, putting it past the diving keeper to the lower left corner of the goal.
The goal from Ortiz ended up being the deciding blow between the two teams. The Pilots had a scary moment with five seconds left in the game as Syracuse failed to capitalize on an ball rolling free in the Portland box.
The Pilots men’s soccer team will be back in action on Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. when they host the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos.