Charlotte, NC - Behind two dramatic goals from Aidan Kirkbride, the fifth-ranked Charlotte 49ers men's soccer team rallied for a 2-1 double-overtime victory over Denver in the 49ers season opener. With the victory, the 49ers improved to 12-0-1 in home openers this century.
"I thought we played very well tonight," said Charlotte coach Kevin Langan, who earned his first victory as a college head coach. "I know that we scored with four seconds left in regulation but in the second half we put Denver under relentless pressure. I was pleased with our character and heart. I was really proud of the team tonight."
The 49ers game-winning goal came after Jennings Rex blasted a shot from about 15 yards out that was punched out by Denver's goalkeeper Oliver Brown. Then, Kirkbride headed the deflection into the back of the net for the game-winner in the 104th minute.
"Aidan is just an unsung hero," Langan said. "He does so much work in the midfield. Tonight it was his turn to shine. He has a great soccer IQ so that is why he was in the right place to score the goals tonight."
Kirkbride tied the game at one with a dramatic goal with four seconds left in regulation. Donnie Smith took a free kick just over midfield with 10 seconds left. Smith's kick went toward the goal where Will Mayhew corralled the free kick and passed it to Kirkbride who headed the ball into the back of the net with four seconds left in regulation.
"It was unbelievable feeling," Kirkbride. "I probably got a little carried away taking my shirt. I am not really tan enough to do that and my teammates gave me a hard time. It was great effort from the guys. We kept fighting until the end."
Denver took the lead in the 32nd minute when Josh Wren corralled a misclear from the 49ers in Denver's offensive third. Wren then sent a shot into the lower right corner of the goal from 15 yards out for the game's first score.
The 49ers controlled the run of play for the majority of the game as they finished with a 24-3 advantage in shots. Charlotte also had a 13-1 advantage in corner kicks. Smith led the 49ers with five shots. Giuseppe Gentile tallied four shots. Kirkbride and Kyle Parker recorded three shots apiece. While, Anthony Perez and Tyler Gibson each added two shots apiece for the 49ers.
Before Kirkbride's two dramatic goals, Charlotte had several other great scoring chances. In the 52nd minute, Smith sent a beautiful bending shot from about 40 yards out that nearly bended into the upper left corner of the goal from just in front of the 49ers bench but his shot hit off the post. In the 58th minute, Parker had a great scoring chance when he put a shot on frame just in front of the mouth of the goal but a Denver defender cleared the ball away just before the ball went past the goal line.
Charlotte returns to action as they continue their three-game season opening home stand when they play 14th-ranked Coastal Carolina at Transamerica Field, Monday, August 27 at 7 pm.