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Second-Seeded Flames Score Double Overtime Victory to Advance to Big South Men's Soccer Championship Title Game
Liberty advances to Sunday's championship game against No. 4 Radford, and will make its first appearance in the title match since 2001.
Boateng's golden goal came with three minutes remaining in the second overtime, and was over the outstretched hand of Winthrop keeper Patrick Mitrovich, who finished with four saves on the night.
Both teams could not get anything going offensively in the first half, as neither squad had an opportunity to create any momentum, leading to a scoreless tie at the break. The Flames held a 5-3 shot advantage in the first stanza. Liberty came close to scoring first at the 22:39 mark when Brandon Patterson directed a 30-yard kick towards the top of the net, but Mitrovich made a leaping save to deflect the shot over the crossbar and out of bounds.
Both keepers made great saves within minutes of each other early in the second half. Mitrovich jumped to his left to deflect a shot at 51:09. Then at 54:30, Flames goalie Paul Gilbert raced to his right to turn away a header attempt by Winthrop's Saidi Isaac. Winthrop had a scoring opportunity at 63:46 when Daniel Revivo turned and fired from close range, but the Liberty defense deflected the ball just to the left of the net out of play.
Gilbert made several diving attempts to keep Winthrop off the scoreboard, including Isaac's hard liner from close distance with time winding down in regulation. Liberty held an 8-6 shots advantage in regulation, and finished the game with nine shots to Winthrop's seven. Revivo lead the Eagles with three attempts on net.
Liberty improves to 12-4-2 on the year, while Winthrop falls to 11-4-3. The Flames are now 5-3 against Winthrop in Big South Tournament action, with all five wins coming in the semifinals.
On Sunday at 2 p.m., the Flames will be making their fifth appearance in the Big South Men's Soccer Championship title game. Liberty is 0-4 all-time in championship game appearances, dropping a 3-1 decision to Coastal Carolina in 2001 during its latest title shot.
The match-up with the Highlanders will mark Liberty's second bout with Radford in a Big South Men's Soccer Championship title game. In 1999, Liberty and Radford played four periods of scoreless soccer, before the Highlanders claimed the title on penalty kicks.
Earlier this year, Liberty pitched one of its Big South-leading nine shutouts in a 3-0 victory over the Highlanders at the Liberty Soccer Field on Sept. 26. The Flames outshot Radford, 13-8, and got goals from Adrian Bumbut, Juan Guzman and Lewis Toby on the afternoon.
Liberty head coach Jeff Alder
"This was a great win and a fantastic goal at the end. For us, Winthrop has been the flagship of the Conference the past few years. They have such great speed, athleticism and technical ability – one of the best teams we've faced, and we have so much respect for Coach Posipanko and his staff. They did a great job and its bittersweet for us."
"Joshua Boateng finished a great, great shot and we dug in defensively in the end. The effort was just fantastic."
Winthrop head coach Rich Posipanko
"I'm disappointed in the fact that our goal in the beginning of the year wasn't just to win the Conference, but to get back to the NCAAs. We'll look back in a few weeks and realize we had a pretty good season. All the credit goes to Liberty.
"They beat us twice this year in identical games. You'd have to say that they are the better team right now. That was anybody''s game today. And in the end I think they may have wanted it just a little more than we did. I'm proud of the season, the guys and the way they played. We just didn't reach our ultimate goal."