Kentucky men’s soccer set to open NCAA Tournament against Portland


Freshman forward Jason Reyes celebrates scoring 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 will begin NCAA Tournament play in the second round against the University of Portland Pilots today at 4 p.m. at The Bell.

UK entered the tournament on a first-round bye after being named a program-record no. 3 tournament seed in Monday’s selection show. This means that the Cats will host all three NCAA Tournament rounds preceding the College Cup, assuming they win those matches.

The Cats won their first-ever C-USA Conference Tournament last weekend and are ranked a program-record first in the College Soccer News poll.

Led by C-USA Coach of the Year Johan Cedergren, UK (17-1-1, 7-1 C-USA) is undefeated at home this season. However, the Cats have never won an NCAA Tournament game in Lexington. They are 0-4-1 in NCAA Tournament matches at home and last appeared in the tournament in 2016.

UK’s last NCAA Tournament outright win came against Mercer University in 2000, the same year it advanced to the Sweet 16. The Cats have never advanced beyond that point.

C-USA Offensive Player of the Year and Offensive MVP J.J. Williams, All C-USA First Team midfielder Kalil Elmedkhar and C-USA Freshman of the Year Jason Reyes anchored the Cats’ offense this season.

Williams scored a conference-leading 16 goals this year and broke the school record for most points in a season with 38. The team captain’s nine game-winning goals this year are the most in the C-USA this season and second-most in the nation.

Elmedkhar has the second-most goals on the team with nine and leads the team in assists with 10. His 10 assists are the second-most by any Wildcat in a season. Reyes leads all UK freshmen in goals with seven.

Defensively, Cats’ goalkeeper Enrique Facusse has led the Cats to a historic defensive performance this year. His 13 shutouts this season are a team record. Facusse’s .47 goals-against average is fourth in the nation and his 86 percent shutout percentage ranks in the nation’s top-10.

All C-USA First Team Defender Aimé Mabika and senior team captain Tanner Hummel led a defensive back four that helped Facusse maintain those shutouts.

No. 21 ranked Portland (12-3-3, 3-3-1 WCC) enters the game 2-3 in its last five games. However, it defeated UCLA in the first round on Thursday to advance to Sunday’s matchup. This is the Pilots’ 16th NCAA Tournament appearance.

The game will be broadcast on SEC Network+/WatchESPN.