Written by Kristen Janes, Staff Writer
In front of 2,700 fans, Furman soccer set out to compete against the nationally ranked 4th place Clemson Tigers. The energy in Stone Stadium surpassed any memory in recent time, with fans shirtless and painted, carrying yellow cards and smashing bleacher seats. Furman did not disappoint the crowd, holding steady with Clemson in the first half, and making a strong push for the win in the second.
The starting eleven came out with the speed and technique to match Clemson’s men, but the defensive core seemed to fall apart one after another. Powered by the size of the crowd, both teams began to play on the riskier side of things, and the change of pace quickly affected Furman. On the back line, sophomore defensemen Arnor Adalsteinsson went down with an apparent head injury, followed closely by Ben Hale, who came limping off the field after a reaching save inside the box.
At midfield, Cole Mclagan also came off in the first half after limping through a series of back and forth passes on the field. To complete the series of injuries, freshman defenseman Luke Tandy had to be helped off the field by teammates after an ankle injury, effectively leaving the Paladins’ defensive line with two previous starters in Jack Shiels and Max Fisher.
With four of the eleven starters injured and not returning, Clemson quickly gained the upper hand in the second half. Scoring in the 61st minute, the Tigers kept momentum over Furman but did not completely control the offensive side. Traditionally, Furman boasts a strong “come back” record, often equalizing and later beating both big opponents and their Southern Conference competitors, but the parade of injuries and vast changes throughout the game made it hard for the ‘Dins to get back into their normal pace.
Alfredo “Alfie” Diaz-Santillan, a fan favorite, had a strong chance to equalize off a throw-in from Tommy Kay in the 77th minute but fell short on a wide save. After several more offensive attempts, the patched-together line-up was lagging. The Paladins failed to make the stop in the final minute, letting Clemson get the upper hand on a centered goal and putting the Tigers up 2-0 for the win.
After rest and recovery, Furman men’s soccer continues their Southern Conference play with a record of 5-3-1 and will travel to Presbyterian before hosting UNC Charlotte, North Greenville and ETSU on a home stretch of games in early October. Coming off of strong wins against UNC Asheville and Davidson, the squad should be in a strong place to defend their SoCon title if they can stay healthy and focused through the coming months.