RIO GRANDE, Ohio – As things turned out, it was a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup that certainly lived up to the hype.
Senior forward Richard Isberner scored off of a short pass from teammate Caio Cruz with 3:47 remaining in overtime to lift second-ranked Rio Grande past top-ranked and defending national champion Lindsey Wilson, 3-2, Saturday night, in a showdown of Mid-South Conference men’s soccer powers at Evan E. Davis Field.
The RedStorm picked up their ninth straight victory, improving to 9-1 overall and 5-0 in the MSC.
The Blue Raiders saw their 33-game winning streak snapped, slipping to 10-1 overall and 6-1 in league play.
Ironically, it also marked the first time in the series that the home team came away victorious.
“It was a classic, classic game between, if not the two best teams in the country, certainly two teams that are among the top ones in the NAIA,” said Rio Grande head coach Scott Morrissey, whose RedStorm lost a pair of narrow decisions to Lindsey Wilson in 2011. “The ones that were here got their money’s worth.”
Isberner’s game-winning goal was his second marker of the night. The native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, who was the reigning MSC Offensive Player of the Week, also had an assist in the win.
“Richie was exceptional tonight – as good as I’ve ever seen him play,” Morrissey said of the first team All-America selection last season. “He played under control and he did it with guys all over him for most of the night.”
Isberner gave Rio a 1-0 lead at the 23:29 mark of the opening half when he scored on a penalty kick and helped extend the cushion to 2-0 just under nine minutes later with a crossing pass to the middle of the box that led to a nifty goal by senior midfielder Oliver Hewitt-Fisher.
The Blue Raiders came off the mat in the second half, though, scoring twice in a span of 19 minutes to tie it up.
Albert Edwards got head coach Ray Wells’ squad on the scoreboard by finding the back of the net on a penalty kick at the 53:58 mark and Lwandiso Gonya’s goal at 72:48 knotted the score at 2-2.
“I thought we played about as well as we could’ve expected in the first half. We told the kids at halftime that the key was managing the first 15 minutes of the second half and we didn’t do that. We let them back in it,” Morrissey said. “But give them credit, too. They came out in the second half and took it to us. They forced the issue and, for a while there, we didn’t answer.”
The overtime period proved just as intense.
Lindsey Wilson had a chance to win with 5:30 left in the extra session, but Rio goal keeper Jack Marchant made a dazzling stop of Sicelo Buthelezi’s point-blank shot off of a rebound of a free kick by Gonya.
The RedStorm’s game-winner came moments later when a crossing pass into the box by junior midfielder Maxi Viera bounced off of the foot of Cruz – a sophomore midfielder from Brazil – and landed in front of Isberner, who rifled a shot by Blue Raiders’ net-minder Yuta Nomura to seal the win and set off a wild celebration.
“Before we started the overtime, we decided we were going to go 3-up and go after it,” Morrissey said. “We were a little fortunate that we got the ball in the final third of the field, but we weren’t going to sit back. Defensively, I thought we did a good job – aside from a few moments. Jack made an unbelievable stop after the free kick that kept us alive. I think emotions got the better of both teams at times, but I still felt like we had it in us even after they tied it up in the second half.”
Marchant was credited with four saves in the victory, while Nomura stopped one shot.
Rio held a 14-11 advantage in total shots, while the two teams were whistled for 17 fouls each.