UK men’s soccer advances to C-USA championship


Kentucky celebrates a goal during the senior night game against Old Dominion at the Bell Soccer Complex on Friday November 2, 2018 in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky defeated Old Dominion 3-0. Photo by Olivia Beach | Staff

Mohammad Ahmad

The UK men’s soccer team is one win away from its first ever C-USA conference tournament championship title.

UK got one step closer following a 2-1 semifinal win over the Marshall Thundering Herd at Transamerica Field in Charlotte, North Carolina Friday evening. Cats’ scoring aces J.J Williams and Kalil Elmedkhar each scored a goal to help push their team to the win.

The Cats are now riding a seven-game win streak that started back on Oct. 13th when they beat Marshall. UK advances in the C-USA tournament for the first time since 2013.

Elmedkhar started up the Cats’ engine in the eighth minute. After Williams had a shot deflected off of Marshall goalkeeper Paulo Pita, Elmedkhar received the rebound. The sophomore fired the rebound back into an open net away from Pita for this ninth goal this season.

Four of Elmedkhar’s nine goals this season have come in the first 10 minutes of regulation.

The Williams-Elmedkhar tandem came back to bite Marshall 10 minutes later. When Elmedkhar had an open look on the right side of the outer box, he chipped a cross over to Williams to the other side of the box. Williams swung his leg toward the ball as it was in midair and shot it out of Pita’s reach for a goal to increase UK’s lead 2-0.

Williams, the C-USA Conference Player of the Year and Offensive MVP this season, scored his conference leading 15th goal. Elmedkhar’s assist was his team-leading ninth assist this season.

After a largely stagnant first half, things got worse for Marshall after midfielder Pedro Dolabella was ejected from the game in the 58th minute. He received his second yellow card of the game after he headbutted Cats’ keeper Enrique Facusse.

Marshall had 15 fouls and Kentucky had 13, echoing the physicality from both sides. However, Marshall was down but not out. It responded in the 61st minute.

The Thundering Herd established a sophomore-to-sophomore connection when Jamil Roberts crossed the ball from the left wing over to J.P. Rylah. Rylah tapped the ball past Facusse into the goal to cut UK’s lead 2-1. That was Facusse’s ninth goal conceded this season.

Despite the scoring effort, Marshall couldn’t scrape up enough offense to steal the game from the Cats. Rylah’s goal was the only shot on goal of the game for Marshall.

UK outshot Marshall 17-5. Marshall was outshot 9-1 in the first half. Pita was put to work by the Cats as he had five saves in the game.

The Cats will face either Old Dominion or UNC Charlotte this Sunday, Nov. 11th. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.