Heavy rain and lightning did not put a damper on a lively atmosphere during Tuesday night’s men’s soccer matchup between South Carolina and Clemson.
Along with the players, 3,555 fans had to wait over an hour and a half after the scheduled 7 p.m. start before the Tigers and Gamecocks finally kicked off.
And boy, was it worth the wait. After junior midfielder Ryan Arambula was sent off for receiving his second yellow card of the match, South Carolina (2-0) battled back, pulling off a 2-1 victory in overtime.
Each team had a pair of second half penalties, including one in the 88th minute by Gamecock redshirt freshman Mikkel Knudsen, which forced extra time.
That set up South Carolina sophomore midfielder Koty Millard to play the hero.
In the 103rd minute, Millard received a pass along the right side of the six-yard box from Knudsen and slipped it through Clemson keeper Andrew Tarbell’s legs for the winning score.
“Honestly, I didn’t do anything special,” Millard said after the game. “I just made a run and Mikkel played a great ball through. I got kind of lucky on the finish and it went in so that works.”
Millard said he was trying to put the ball on frame, and it was more luck than anything that it found its way through the keeper’s legs.
The crowd at Stone Stadium realized right away there was no love lost between these two teams, as right out of the gate in the first minute Clemson freshman Oliver Shannon had a late challenge on South Carolina junior Jeffrey Torda, earning a yellow card.
In the 23rd minute, Torda came back with a hard slide tackle of his own. He was whistled for a foul, but immediately pushed to the ground by Clemson’s Ara Amirkhanian. No yellow cards were issued at that moment, but one could sense more would come soon.
Forearms to the back and extra curricular shoving and pushing were prevalent in the match.
Amirkhanian picked up an overdue yellow card in the 31st minute after another late tackle.
Clemson almost went ahead right before half when the Tigers’ Diego Campos hit a wonder strike several feet from outside the right part of the box that curved toward the goal, but hit the crossbar and trickled away.
The Gamecocks went down to 10 men after Arambula picked up his second yellow card of the match.
Sophomore goalie Marco Velez made two remarkable saves right after that from close range and ended up with five stops on the night.
Another questionable call by the official led to a Clemson penalty, which Amirkhanian converted in the 68th minute.
The game swung in the Gamecocks’ favor in the 82nd minute after Amirkhanian picked up a second yellow on a hard tackle, which reduced each squad to 10 men.
That helped give South Carolina life in Knudsen and Millard’s goals.
Clemson outshot the Gamecocks 24 to seven, but that was largely due to South Carolina playing with 10 men for 30 minutes. There were five yellow cards and two reds during the match.
Head coach Mark Berson was thrilled that his team fought through playing man down for so long to muscle out a victory.
“That takes an immense amount of energy and emotion to deal with, and we’re a goal down,” he said. “So, the heart of our guys and the grit was unbelievable. It was a team effort for the guys. They deserved it.”
Berson added that the fans changed the game and them staying the entire game helped the Gamecocks push through adversity to win.
“We had a really nice crowd for the thunderstorms and bad weather,” he said. “To have this place as full as it was, was outstanding. Our players play for their teammates and play for their classmates.”