South Carolina men's soccer was defeated 1-0 in its home opener against No. 1 Clemson on Friday.
Despite outshooting the visitors 9-5 over the course of 90 minutes, the Gamecocks only registered one shot on goal. Clemson was able to convert one of its opportunities, and it proved to be the difference in the match.
"(It's) disappointing because I thought we could've at least tied the game, but even at times, I thought we were good enough to win it," South Carolina head coach Tony Annan said. "They're a solid team that came in here with a good reputation, and I think we gave as good as we got."
Clemson started the match on the front foot with two corner kicks in the first 10 minutes, but it was South Carolina who would have the first goal-scoring opportunity of the match in the 14th minute. Sophomore forward Harrison Myring dribbled from the halfway line and delivered a shot that caromed off the crossbar.
Despite their tactical differences both teams employed aggressive styles of play, combining for 25 fouls. Emotions ran high in the 30th minute when pushing and shoving on the Clemson sideline resulted in a red card being shown to freshman forward Tyler Trimnal, who was warming up as a substitute.
In the opening half, Clemson was strong in possession and waited for opportune times to strike. South Carolina, on the other hand, relied heavily on counterattacks for offensive production and were dangerous when the Tigers pressed numbers forward, outshooting their opponents 4-2.
The Gamecocks carried that offensive momentum into the second half, but it quickly swung out of their favor when Clemson was awarded a corner kick in the 60th minute. Off the corner, junior midfielder Ousmane Sylla delivered a short pass to senior midfielder Alvaro Gomez, who whipped in a curling shot that deflected off the head of a South Carolina defender into the back of the net.
Clemson took and managed to maintain the lead, although South Carolina came close to tying the game on numerous occasions. Annan cited the team's inability to finish as the most glaring concern of the match.
"In the final third, we were poor. We had chances to win it, and we didn't," Annan said. "If you don't put your chances away, you struggle to win games."
Despite the Gamecocks' lack of form in front of goal, Annan said he was proud of the team's performance against the top team in the country.
"I'm very proud of the lads, very proud of the group," Annan said. "I thought for big sections of the game, we got on top when we created some really good chances."
Fans in Stone Stadium provided an electric atmosphere from the opening whistle until the end of the match, roaring with approval whenever the Gamecocks made important plays. Annan described the home support as "superb."
"This has got to be one of the best atmospheres in college soccer. Has to be," Annan said. "There was 6,000 people in here tonight bouncing and it was great and they were behind the team, and that's what we want."
South Carolina will face off against another in-state opponent, USC Upstate, in its next match on Tuesday, Sept. 6 at Stone Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.