Villanova men’s soccer took down Butler, 1-0, for its first win over the Bulldogs since 2014, on an 81st minute goal from senior forward Seidu Shamsudeen to improve to 6-2 overall. The squad is undefeated through two games of Big East play. The Wildcats picked up the win despite being outshot 25-7 over the course of the match by the Bulldogs.
Butler came out on the attack within the first minute of the match. The ‘Cats backline was tested early and often by the Butler forwards. Senior keeper Kent Dickey, playing in place of senior keeper Carson Williams, who was serving a one-game red card suspension, was kept on his toes by a persistent Butler offense. The game was largely played in the final thirds in the first half, as both teams showed little interest in battling over possession in the midfield.
The Wildcats struggled to get their offensive timing down early, as the ‘Cats had two attacking opportunities blown dead after offside calls in the opening 10 minutes of the match. The teams continued to trade punches with each other, until Butler settled into a spell of offensive possession around the 20-minute mark. The ‘Cats defense was able to withstand the Bulldogs’ barrage, with multiple defenders blocking Butler shots to help make life easier for Dickey.
"We came out on the back foot and had to defend a lot in the first half," Coach Tom Carlin said to Villanova Athletics. "I thought we were a little slow to start for some reason. We've been starting games slow and this was slower than usual.”
The Wildcats’ offensive game plan for a majority of the first half revolved around sending balls from its own third up to forwards making runs on the wings. This aggressive, counter-attacking style of play led to little extended possession for the ‘Cats.
The highlight of the first 45 minutes of play for the Wildcats was a diving block made by junior midfielder Viktor Benediktsson. Benediktsson’s block prevented Dickey from having to attempt a save on a dangerous looking shot from a Butler forward.
It was scoreless at the half, but the Bulldogs outshot the Wildcats 19-3 through 45 minutes of play. During halftime, members of the record-setting 12 win 1980 Wildcats squad were honored with a short ceremony.
After the second half kicked off, the two teams continued to trade punches. A dangerous chance came for the ‘Cats near the 50th minute, as junior forward Lyam MacKinnon made a solo run through the middle of the field, but he was dispossessed by the final defender before he could get a shot away. After the run, the Wildcats were able to string together a couple consecutive chances, but nothing substantial came from them.
Butler then countered with a few consecutive chances of its own, but Villanova’s defense was able to hang tough, only conceding a couple dangerous shots that Dickey was able to collect. While Williams had covered most of the duties this year between the sticks, Carlin said he felt just as confident with Dickey in goal.
"Our goalkeeper situation was the least of my worries coming into this one," Carlin said. "Kent is an emerging leader for us. He's ready for this. We have two really good keepers in Kent and Carson so as a coach, you're always comfortable."
It wasn’t until the 81st minute that the Wildcats had a chance of major substance, and Shamsudeen made no mistake. Sophomore midfielder Jorge Garcia played a ball just in front of the 18-yard box for Shamsudeen, who drove a shot along the turf that slid past the keeper and found the lower left side of the back of the net. It was Shamsudeen’s second goal of the season. Shamsudeen, who came on as a substitute, only logged 19 minutes on the day.
“Seidu didn't log a lot of minutes, but he sure made the most of what he did have,” Carlin said.
From then on out, the ‘Cats squeezed their defensive shape in tight, digging their boots in and defending for their lives against a Butler team that was now pushing to equalize. Ultimately the Wildcats defense held strong, keeping the Bulldogs from finding the back of the net for the last 10 minutes of play and clinching a perfect start to Big East play.
The Wildcats will face their next conference opponent when they travel to face Xavier on Oct. 2. The match kicks off at 4 p.m.