The No. 22-ranked Charlotte 49ers used two goals and an assist by Marco Sunol-Rojas to sprint by the Hofstra Pride 6-0 Monday night at Transamerica Field, making for an almost perfect start to their 2016 campaign.
“From the first whistle we looked like a team,” said head coach Kevin Langan. “We were just desperate to play and we waited all weekend seeing all the results come in and I know the guys were just eager to play from the first whistle. It’s the way that we want to play; flying forward, passing forward, we got some really good technical players, and it was a great performance tonight.”
Brandt Bronico had Charlotte’s first opportunity to break the nil-nil score from about 10 yards outside the box, landing the free kick right off the crossbar. Sunol-Rojas patiently waited for the rebound, almost scooting the ball by the Hoftsra goalkeeper, but unable to do so. Sunjol-Rojas would have plenty more opportunities throughout the game.
Redshirt freshman Elliot Panicco got his first save in the fifteenth minute, diving and knocking the ball over the crossbar, the first scare from the Hofstra offense to the Charlotte defense.
Bronico lined up for his third corner of the first 25 minutes of play, sending it into the box and to the head of sophomore Callum Montgomery, placing it into the back of the net to give Charlotte their first regular season goal.
A full 20 seconds later, the 49ers’ Daniel Bruce capitalized on a miscue by the Pride defense, flying to the box with a one-on-one with the goalkeeper, gliding it to the left of the keeper, giving Charlotte a 2-0 lead.
In the thirty-second minute, Nino Alfonso of Hofstra made a very hard challenge to Ryan Spaulding’s feet, sending him to the ground and sending Matej Dekovic to the rescue, pushing and shoving Alfonso. Alfonso was granted a yellow card, creating some tension right before the first half.
Just minutes after, Joseph Holland sent a ball just over the head of the 49ers keeper Panicco, screaming at the referee after he thought there was plenty of contact made. That lit more fuel to the fire, with guys screaming at each other and also yelling at the refs.
After some brilliant footwork from Bronico to get into the box, Rory Murphy of the Pride protected his keeper’s back, standing on the line and blocking Bronico’s attempt at goal number one for the season for the senior midfielder.
The 49ers keeper Panicco made an outstanding save with just under one minute to play in the first half, leading to a 49ers clearance. After the clearance, Harrison Steadman took advantage of another miscue, this time by the Hofstra keeper Alex Ashton, completely misplaying the ball, leading to a wide open net for senior forward Steadman.
Charlotte took a 3-0 advantage going into halftime, while also taking a 5-3 advantage in shots.
Just minutes after intermission, the 49ers were fortunate to have Panicco in the goal, making another great save on a penalty kick, leading to a brawl just a few moments later near the Charlotte bench.
That brawl set up a straight-red to Hofstra’s Meschack Eshun Addy less than three minutes into the half for stepping on Sean Bowman, giving the 49ers a one man advantage for the rest of the game.
Zhuvonte Wilson played a ball to the box in the forty-ninth minute to Marco Sunol-Rojas who turned his back to the ball and performed a bicycle kick to give the 49ers their fourth goal, an almost unreal goal that brought the entire crowd to their feet at Transamerica Field.
As the time rolled off the clock, the 49ers and Pride both looked to settle down emotionally, making for a cleaner second half of play.
The 49ers didn’t layoff though in the second half, as Spaulding used a back heel to find Sunol-Rojas for his second goal of the game and the fifth for the 49ers in the sixty-ninth minute.
With just one minute remaining in regulation, Charlotte’s freshman Spaulding found himself in the goal column, assisted by Maclean Holbrook to cap off a six-goal performance, the first 6-0 win for the 49ers since October 30, 2013 against Florida Atlantic.
The 49ers went on to out shoot the Pride 16-8, with nine of those shots being on target. The two teams combined for 28 fouls.
Charlotte will stay at home for the next three games at Transamerica Field, with UCF coming to the Queen City Friday, September 2 at 6:00 p.m. for the first of those home games.