WEST POINT, N.Y. - Central Florida scored two goals in a seven-minute span midway through the second half to overcome a 1-0 halftime deficit and defeat Army, 2-1, in a non-league men's soccer match Sunday afternoon at a sun-splashed Clinton Field.
Army got on the board late in the first half when senior forward Ernest Whitaker scored his first career goal in the 41st minute. Whitaker took a feed from junior forward Tanner Robertson and unleashed a laser of a shot from the left side of the 18-yard line that beat UCF goalkeeper Shawn Doyle and ripped the twine in the top right-hand corner of the cage.
Whitaker, who is in his first season as a member of the Black Knights' program, was thrilled to break through and score his first career goal.
"It was a great feeling to finally get a goal," said Whitaker. "We had a throw off the left-hand side of the field and Tanner was able to lay it off for me. I was able to get a turn and the defender gave me a little bit of space so I was able to take a shot and fortunately it beat the keeper to the backside.
"I'll never forget (this goal). I've wanted to play soccer here at Army since I got to the Academy. To finally make the team and get a chance to go play and actually get a goal is a feeling unlike any other I've had before. It was great."
Central Florida (4-2-0) seemed to have the better of the play in the first half, finishing the opening stanza with an 11-6 edge in shots and a 6-1 advantage in corner kicks. Army sophomore goalkeeper Ryan Currens stopped all three of the Golden Knights' shots on goal, however, to help the Black Knights enter halftime with a 1-0 lead.
UCF increased its pressure in the second half, outshooting Army 13-6 in the frame. The Golden Knights' persistence finally paid off in the 71st minute when Nicholas Keown-Robson gathered a cross from Spencer Scott and beat Currens from just outside the six-yard line. The marker, Keown-Robson's team-leading fifth of the season, knotted the score at 1-1.
The Golden Knights took their first lead of the match just moments later when Christian Eissele redirected a cross by Yaron Bacher past Currens in the 78th minute. Keown-Robson, who sent a through ball to Bacher, got credit with an assist on the tally as well.
Army (0-6-0) stepped up its offense in the final 12 minutes, generating a couple of quality scoring chances down the stretch. The best opportunity came just two minutes after Eissele's marker, when Army junior defender Jeffrey Pickett's header off a cross had to be saved by a UCF defender.
The Black Knights also generated a pair of corner kick opportunities in the final two minutes, but neither resulted in a serious threat and Central Florida was able to hold on for the victory.
For the game, UCF enjoyed a 24-12 advantage in shots and an 11-4 edge in corner kicks.
Currens, who was under fire throughout the match, finished with seven saves in the Black Knights' goal. Doyle stopped one shot en route to the victory for UCF.
"Our team is just focused on the next game right now; that's where we are," said first-year Army head coach Russell Payne. "There were some things we needed to do in this game that we didn't. But, the game is over and we are regrouping. We have Navy on Saturday, and we need more support than we've ever gotten. We just need to get a little bit more push. We have some obstacles here internally, and we have to find a way to overcome them. If it takes the 12th man to help us, then we need that 12th man to help us. That's our state of mind right now."
Army will continue its six-game homestand on Saturday, Sept. 25, when the Black Knights host Navy in the Patriot League opener for both schools. Kickoff for the Star Game is set for 7 p.m. The match will be carried live on ITT Knight Vision.
Notes: Army falls to 0-1-0 all-time versus Central Florida as today's meeting was the first between the two schools ... Ernest Whitaker's first half goal marked the first time that the Black Knights have scored in the opening half this season ... Army's 1-0 lead was the team's first lead of the season ... Ryan Currens set a new season high with seven saves today ... Tanner Robertson is now tied for the team lead in assists (two).