Whenever the Denver and Omaha men’s soccer teams meet, what follows is usually not meant for the faint of heart.
The last time these two teams met, Omaha won the Summit League title in a thrilling penalty shootout. Going further back in time, the series has seen last-second goals and exciting comebacks.
And yet, this meet up was perhaps the most riveting one yet.
On paper, this matchup should never have been close – Omaha entered 1-4-0, while Denver entered fourth in the nation at 6-0-1. So, it came as surprise to many when it was Omaha that struck the first blow in the match.
In the 30th minute, sophomore Diego Gutierrez produced an excellent individual effort by dribbling down almost to the end line and then chipping the ball into the upper corner of the net.
With 9 minutes left in the first half, a hard slide tackle from junior Seth Rinderknecht was rewarded with a prompt red card. Omaha would be down to ten men for the rest of the match.
The limitation would severely inhibit the Omaha squad, but not before Billy Hoffman scored off a header early in the second half. Unfortunately, 76 seconds later, Denver took the ball down the field and got a goal from senior Andre Shinyashiki to make the score 2-1.
Almost exactly one minute later, in what seemed like déjà vu, Shinyashiki again scored for the Pioneers. The Maverick lead was gone and the score was then 2-2.
Shinyashiki still wasn’t finished. Three minutes later, in the 54th minute, Shinyashiki completed his hat-trick. Within five minutes, Denver had completely flipped Omaha’s lead.
“After scoring my first career goal, I thought that I’d sealed off the win and I thought we were going to bunker,” said Billy Hoffman. “We had done a good job of figuring out where [Andre Shinyashiki] was the whole time. After the first goal, we didn’t do a great job of getting the team back together.”
The cycle would take place again. With 12 minutes left in the match, Maverick freshman Martin Veys found the back of the net for his second goal of the season. The score was tied at 3-3, until Shinyashiki slipped past the defense and scored his fourth goal of the game (and nation-leading 17th goal of the season).
The drama in the match remained until the end. Omaha had a chance to tie the game in the 81st minute off a free kick. Denzel Woods appeared to head in the equalizer but was called offside. The call caused plenty of uproar from the Omaha coaches and fans. There was so much uproar in fact, that the referee decided to show a red card to head coach Bob Warming.
Omaha found itself in a position to tie again in the 81st minute off a free kick from Denzel Woods–a referee instead waved off the play as offside. Omaha Head Coach Bob Warming was so infuriated by the call that he was shown his second yellow card of the night, and was ejected.
Without their head coach, and without much energy left in the tank, the Mavericks fell to the Pioneers 3-4. The Pioneers remain undefeated on the season at 7-0-1, while the Mavericks fall to 1-5-0.
This may not be the last Omaha-Denver matchup of the season. Both teams will perhaps have a chance to play each other in the Summit League tournament, with post-season implications on the line. After the drama on Saturday, both teams and both sets of fans will likely be very eager for a sequel.