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Preston Popp scores in overtime to fire the Niners into the semifinals

On Wednesday night, Transamerica Field hosted the quarterfinals of the Conference USA tournament. With Old Dominion winning 4-0 against New Mexico beforehand, taking them to the semifinals, the Charlotte 49ers followed the way shortly after with a 1-0 win against the UAB Blazers. The lead came after forward Preston Popp scored a golden goal during overtime.

The first 20 minutes of the first half saw the Niners play with strong possession against their opponents from UAB. The players were attacking well and keeping the Blazers busy defending. The Niners nearly took on an early lead in the first nine minutes of the game with the chance coming from 49ers forward Daniel Bruce. Bruce struck the ball on target after racing his way down the left side, but the ball was narrowly saved by UAB’s goalkeeper Seth Torman.

As the fiery offensive play began to wear off, the game became more even between Charlotte and UAB. The first half ended goalless with 9-2 shots advantage for Charlotte.

“We started the game really, really well, and then in the last 20 minutes of the first half, we lost our way a little bit,” said head coach Kevin Langan.

The second half of the game saw the Niners play back and forth with UAB. The Blazers were making it difficult for Charlotte to see past them with defensive play and the ball not being played to the Niners’ advantage.

“It was just one of those nights where the final ball was lacking,” said Langan.

As the second half came to an end with another goalless half and zero shots recorded for UAB, it was time for a short break before 10 minutes of overtime where a golden goal would decide the winners.

Period three of the game showed strong dedication from the Niners. Just three minutes into overtime, the well-deserved goal came from Popp who was assisted by midfielder Tommy Madden. Madden crossed the ball inside the box to Popp who fired it into the back left of the net, sweeping past the goalkeeper. This was Popp’s fourth goal of the season and his first game-winning goal which proudly takes Charlotte through to the next stage.

“We knew at halftime that if we didn’t win this game that it could be our last game of the season, so we just kept on going,” said Popp.

The 49ers hope to see another win in the next stage of the tournament and are set to take on Old Dominion for the semi-finals at Transamerica Field on Friday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.

Niners keep another clean sheet

The Charlotte 49ers kept another clean sheet at home with a defensive 3-0 win against USC Upstate.

The first half saw strong possession from Charlotte and chances for the Niners to take an early lead. In the 18th minute, forward Preston Popp took a great shot that narrowly missed the net and hit the right post. The first half ended with 10 shots in total for Charlotte, but ended on a 0-0 draw.

The second half started out better than the first half. It wasn’t until the 64th minute that the first set of goal-scoring action started. The first goal was scored by Charlotte forward Maclean Holbrook. The goal was assisted by defender Noah Seach who crossed it over to Holbrook, who then taps it into the net past Upstate goalkeeper Andrea Bonavia.

The second goal came just a short 12 minutes later in the 76th minute by Teddy Chaouche, the 49ers midfielder, scoring his first game for the season. This was assisted by midfielder Joe Brito and a throw-in by Ethan Sawdon. Brito managed to beat an Upstate defender and get the goal to Chaouche for the goal.

“I just knew where I wanted the ball to go and it went perfectly,” said forward Chaouche.

With just 13 seconds to go the second half, the Niners ended with an excellent finish by Jake Gusler, also scoring his first game of the season, allowing the game to end 3-0.

“What we saw from Jake tonight is what we see every day. He has great quality, he wants the ball, he’s courageous, and you saw that goal at the end; that was a really hard goal.” said head coach Kevin Langan.

“It’s the whole team working together; fighting for each other. It’s really good for us to have another clean sheet.” Chaouche said.

This concluded tonight’s game which finished with an advantage for Charlotte of 20-6 shots with 11-5 on target.

The next game for the Niners will be at home for a non-conference senior night match against UIC on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m.