LEXINGTON, Ky. – Goalkeeper Enrique Facusse saved an early penalty kick before JJ Williams and Kalil ElMedkhar combined for three high-quality second-half goals in the seventh-ranked Kentucky Men’s Soccer Team’s 3-0 victory against East Tennessee State on Wednesday at The Bell.
Williams curled a left-footed shot into the left upper-90 44 seconds into the second half, and then brilliantly stretched to redirect a corner kick in at the near post 20 minutes later to double the Wildcats’ lead.
ElMedkhar, who assisted each of the first two goals, curled a right-footed shot around the goalkeeper into the right side of the goal in the 78th minute to make it three. Williams assisted that goal.
Facusse made three saves, including a brilliant stop of a Bruno Andrade penalty kick six minutes into the match. The sophomore dove to his right to palm the shot out and ETSU’s rebound attempt went into the side netting as Facusse sprung up to cut off the angle.
UK has kept clean sheets in seven of eight matches so far and two in a row. With that, the sophomore has a .240 goals-against average, improving the mark that was fourth best in the nation entering the week.
“I think the whole team is defending really well,” Facusse said. “That’s our goal: to keep clean sheets each game because if we keep clean sheets we keep winning. We’re scoring goals, like Kalil and JJ who keep playing really well. We just try to work hard in practice every day and try to reach our goals.”
The Wildcats, with a won-lost-drawn record of 7-0-1 (2-0-0 Conference USA), are off to the best season-starting run in varsity program history.
UK snapped a two-match ETSU winning streak, and the Buccaneers fell to 4-5-0 this season.
After scoring another two Wednesday, Williams leads Kentucky with seven goals this year. That total tied him for 10th most in the nation based on numbers entering this week. He’s scored four game winners.
ElMedkhar edged past Aimé Mabika for second most goals on the team with three this year.
Williams and ElMedkhar are tied with Tanner Hummel for the second most assists on the team with two apiece. Marcel Meinzer has three assists.
Williams leads the team with 16 points this season, eight ahead of ElMedkhar.
Mabika was named C-USA Player of the Week on Monday.
Kentucky has allowed just two goals this year – both in last Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime win at Lipscomb.
Facusse has kept clean sheets in more than half – 14 – of the 26 matches he’s started over the past two years.
“Excited to keep another clean sheet,” Head Coach Johan Cedergren said. “Excited to score three wonderful goals. I thought ETSU played really well the first half, and for us I think we were 85-90- percent, so we were excited to be able to go into halftime and sort things out.
“Being positive, but just making sure that they understood that it wasn’t good enough. And then of course you have to mention Enrique because if he doesn’t save the penalty in the first half, I think it’s a very different game, and that was a fantastic save. Excited to get another win and excited to get another clean sheet and of course, three goals never hurts.”
Cedergren made one change in the starting 11 that went on to defeat Charlotte 1-0 last Friday.
ETSU arrived in Lexington led by first-year Head Coach David Casper, who spent the past six years on Johan Cedergren’s staff at UK.
UK leads the all-time series 5-2, including three-straight overtime victories. They two sides have played every year since 2012.
The next one
The Wildcats will return to C-USA play Saturday for what’s ironically colloquially known as the “Southeastern Conference Men’s Soccer Championship” against South Carolina.
UK and USC are the only two SEC schools that sponsor varsity men’s soccer so they both compete in C-USA as “affiliate members.”
For the latest on the Kentucky men’s soccer team, follow @UKMensSoccer on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as on the web at UKathletics.com.