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.