Tresor Mbuyu has scored five goals to lead the Flames, this season.
Despite two goals from Tresor Mbuyu, the Liberty Flames fell, 3-2, to the USC Upstate Spartans in their first road contest of 2017, Saturday at County University Stadium.
Mbuyu, who has netted at least one goal in each of Liberty's first three games, scored a goal in both halves and now leads the Flames with five on the season. Last season, the forward netted 10 goals, tying for the Big South lead and placing him among the top 20 scorers in the nation.
Liberty falls for the first time in 2017, dropping to 2-1. USC Upstate moves to 1-3. It was the first home match for the Spartans, this season.
For the first time in 2017, Liberty was outshot, 20-6. The Spartans also had 11 shots on goal, while the Flames put three shots on frame.
Liberty staked itself to an advantage, striking during the early moments of the opening half. The Flames took a 1-0 lead on their first shot of the contest during the 11th minute. Midfielder Bobby Bynum sent a crossing pass from the right side of the field towards the far post. On the left side of the 18-yard box, Mbuyu headed the ball into the near left corner for a quick visitor edge.
Midway through the half, Liberty's attack garnered back-to-back corner kicks by midfielder Shaun Stocker during the 26th and the 28th minute. However, each time the host Spartans cleared both attempts without allowing the Flames a shot attempt.
After both teams made several substitutions in the final minutes of the half, USC Upstate used back-to-back goals in the last five minutes to take a 2-1 edge into intermission.
USC Upstate tied the contest during the 41st. After being turned away on their previous two shots of the half by Liberty goalkeeper James Knoebel, the Spartans scored off a cross into the box. Midfielder Calon Minors pushed a cross from the right sideline to the front of the goal. An open Cam Philphot scored into an open net for his second goal of the year and evening the score at 1-1.
The Spartans then went ahead in the final minute of the period, taking the lead with three second left. Philpot sent a cross in front of the net, where Anson Girone beat a Flames' defender and scored with time expiring for a 2-1 lead at intermission.
Neither team was able to generate a scoring chance until the 65th minute. Liberty midfielder Pepe Segarra came free for a shot which hit the post and was cleared by USC Upstate.
The Spartans added to their advantage during the 76th minute. On the attack, USC Upstate pressure paid off in a goal. Forward JR Corzine moved past a defender at the near post and tucked a shot inside the post. His first goal of the season gave the Spartans a 3-1 edge.
Liberty cut its deficit to one goal during the 83rd minute. Forward Matt Zacyzk lifted the ball over several Spartans' defenders, finding Mbuyu open on the left side of the box. The forward buried a shot into the top, right corner, trimming their hosts' lead to 3-2.
Looking for the equalizer, the Flames continued to press its attack. Zacyzk had a shot blocked during the 85th minute, resulting in a corner kick. Midfielder Kevin Mendoza found defender Evan Godfrey for a shot off the kick, but his attempt was wide.
In the 87th minute, USC Upstate received a penalty kick. Knoebel stopped the attempt, keeping the Flames within one, as time ran out.
Liberty goalkeeper Knoebel made eight saves in the contest. USC Upstate goalkeeper Santiago Restrepo recorded one save.
The Flames will next travel to Dayton, Ohio for a tournament hosted by the Dayton Flyers. Liberty will open the tournament against the Fort Wayne Mastodons, Friday. Match time is slated for 5 p.m. at Baujan Field.
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