UK men’s soccer starts 2-0 once again with win over Columbia


Junior JJ Williams (7) fights for possession. University of Kentucky men’s soccer played for their 1st win of the season against DePaul University on Friday, August 24, 2018. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Mohammad Ahmad

The UK men’s soccer team followed up its season-opening victory with a 1-0 win against the Columbia Lions on Friday night at The Bell.

Junior captain J.J. Williams was the hero of the night with his goal. Cats’ goalkeeper Enrique Facusse retained the Cats’ lead with his second-straight shutout, netting two saves.

Tonight’s win marks the fourth season in a row that the Cats have started 2-0. For the Lions, this match was their season opener.

Columbia returned nine of its starters, five of them seniors, from last year’s team that finished in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Conversely, a much younger UK squad started four freshman Friday.

“We have a couple of really special players,” UK head coach Johan Cedergren said. “Our back four is really solid and J.J.’s size and press up front caused fits for Columbia.”

UK wasted no time trying to set the tone for the game. UK freshman Nicolai Fremstad missed a close wide shot from the right in the third minute.

The Norwegian star is one of the highest profile international players to arrive at UK in recent memory, joining Connor Probert and Jordan Wilson in an impressive list of UK players to come from overseas.

The first 20 minutes presented rapid drives from each team. Both teams encroached in each other’s territories but with no success.

Facusse had two crucial saves in the half in the 20th and 27th minutes. The sophomore’s 0.89 goals-against average last season ranked second in the C-USA.

Aside from a pair of Columbia offsides and a blocked shot from Williams, the rest of the half featured each team blowing up close plays in one another’s boxes.

“Columbia was very patient on the ball and it was hard for us to get a hold of them centrally, so we just had to be patient,” Cedergren said.

Both teams were off to a modest start for the first 10 minutes of the second half. That changed, however, in the 57th minute.

Kentucky got a break and burst down the field before Williams got the ball from a Fremstad cross. When Williams had room, he played the ball in the box with a quick turn before he shot the ball into the roof of the net.

Williams, who led the Cats in total points last season, scored his first goal of the season.

“Instead of taking someone on, Nikolai saw me on the backside and played a good ball in,” Williams said. “There wasn’t much [Columbia] could do.”

Williams had two more close shots within the next 10 minutes that were barely saved by Columbia keeper Dylan Castanheira.

The Lions didn’t do much to get back in the game for the rest of the half. Columbia midfielders Sebastian Gunbeyi and Vana Markarian each received yellow cards in the half as well.

Looking to start the season 3-0 for the second straight year, the Cats will take on in-state rival Louisville Cardinals on Tuesday, Sept. 4, at 7:30 at The Bell.