South Florida and UConn Advance to Sunday's American Athletic Conference Championship Game
University of South Florida 2, Rutgers 1
For the second game in a row, USF senior forward Stiven Salinas scored a game-winning goal, sending the USF Bulls into the first ever American Athletic Conference championship game. Salinas’ goal, a fantastic curled effort from the top of the box scored in the 102nd minute of overtime, proved decisive as the Bulls game from behind to defeat Rutgers 2-1 in the night’s first semifinal.
It was #8 seed Rutgers who took a surprising lead in the 3rd minute through Mael Corboz’s seventh goal of the season, but USF wouldn’t stay behind for long, however, as Edwin Moalosi scored just four minutes later to level the match.
After the early goals, the game slowed way down with USF controlling the majority of possession in a match they dominated in most statistical categories. Rutgers goalkeeper David Greczek came up huge, however, making 12 saves that kept the Scarlet Knights in the match until the 102nd-minute golden goal ending their Cinderella run through the tournament.
“I give our team credit, we were very focused and I thought we created enough good chances to win the game,” said USF head coach George Kiefer. “I feel like we did a good job in the match and we clearly did not overlook [Rutgers].”
With the win, USF advances to Sunday’s championship game at 1:00PM on the Toyota Stadium Field where they’ll face Connecticut looking for their 13th conference tournament championship.
University of Connecticut 2, University of Central Florida 0
UConn booked their spot in Sunday’s final with a straightforward 2-0 victory over Central Florida. The UCF Knights came into this match on a nine-game unbeaten run, but it was the Huskies of Connecticut who took an early lead. Freshman phenom Cyle Larin scored from close range to put the second-seeded Huskies in front in the 8th minute.
Connecticut doubled their advantage in the 37th minute when Nicholas Zuniga finished a rebound to put the Huskies up 2-0. The second half went quietly and UConn strolled into Sunday’s conference championship game.
“I thought we came out extremely focused and the first half was quite sharp,” said UConn head coach Ray Reid. “In the second half they started taking chances and we let them hang around and didn’t finish them off, but it was a good effort by our side and certainly we’re going to have to be better to beat South Florida on Sunday.”