Almost one year ago, Troy Brady suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee, abruptly ending his freshman season at Canisius.
The months of grueling recovery exercises paid off, as a rejuvenated Brady smashed a right-footed strike inside the near post just 30 seconds into the first overtime to give the Golden Griffins a golden-goal, 4-3 victory over Robert Morris on Thursday at Demske Sports Complex.
"I can't explain that feeling," said Brady, who ripped his jersey off and ran toward the home crowd after potting the winner. "It's the best feeling in the world, the best feeling I've ever had actually."
It was an uneven performance for the Griffs, marred by shaky marking in the defensive third in the first 40 minutes. After digging themselves a 3-0 hole, the Griffins slowly chipped away at the deficit with goals from freshman Filippo Tamburini and junior Evan Walsh before equalizing on a Melvin Blair missile in the 86th minute.
"You can't put yourself in a position where you have to score four goals to win - it's not going to end well on most days," admitted Canisius head coach Dermot McGrane. "We challenged the boys at halftime and we responded really well - I think as the game wore on we got more confident and more energized, where you could see [Robert Morris] just dropping off."
"A huge part of it was our fitness level," echoed Brady, the former PrepTalk Player of the Year for Grand Island High School. "Their whole team was just playing - they weren't energetic at all. The guys on our bench were keeping us buzzing, and the guys just raised the level in the second half."
Canisius evens its record at 1-1 after losing on the road to Stony Brook in the opener. Robert Morris, who also lost to St. Bonaventure, 3-2, drops to 0-3.
"The first home game is always very important - it sets the tone for the rest of the season," summed senior midfielder Lucian Preis. "[Today] just shows character."
*1-0, Robert Morris, 13': FC Buffalo midfielder Jake Cooper put the Colonials on the board first with a powerful header from a corner kick swung in by Keane McIvor. Canisius keeper Bryce Tramuta got a touch to the header, but its power thrust it into the back of the net.
The Griffins had a chance to equalize from the penalty spot when center back Alex Grattarola, in advanced position on Benediktsson's set piece, was hauled down in the 18-yard box. The left-footed Benediktsson trotted to the penalty kick mark, only to see his try ping off the left post and out.
Penalty kick for the Griffs! Grattarola is ripped down in box off Benediktsson's free kick. Ends poorly for Bjarki. 1-0 RMU still, 26' pic.twitter.com/PpDEXrSB2I
— Buffalo News Soccer (@BN_Soccer) August 31, 2017
*2-0, Robert Morris, 30': With Canisius' defense retreating during a Robert Morris counter attack, an awkward touch by Grattarola fell to the feet of Colonials striker Christian Coridon, who bulled his way by Bjarki Benediktsson and roofed his shot near post from a tight angle.
*3-0, Robert Morris, 41': A pretty team goal from the Colonials, as substitute Rafael Bruzual slipped a pass behind the Canisius defense to a sprinting Bayley Winkel, who laid the ball across the front of goal for Corey McCurdy to tap in with ease.
"We've definitely got to tighten some things up in the back," McGrane explained after the match. "I thought we were sloppy in the defense in the first half."
*3-1, Robert Morris, 41': Only five seconds of game time elapsed before the Griffs caught Robert Morris dozing. A long ball forward from Lucian Preis was knocked down beautifully by Eric Strauchen to forward Filippo Tamburini, who made no mistake with his left-footed drive over the goalkeeper.
"It was really good that we scored the first goal in the first half," Preis reflected. "That gave us energy, you could hear us talking, and all the players on the bench got us going and we wanted this one so much more than the players on the other team."
*3-2, Robert Morris, 70': Playing with greater urgency after halftime, the Griffs cut deeper into the RMU lead when a pretty feint by Brady fooled a defender, allowing the forward to slot a pass into space for Evan Walsh, who struck his shot well past Winter Fondi.
"I was a second away from ripping it, but I heard Evan scream to the right of me and I picked up my head and thought, 'He's going to get in behind this defender and have an open shot on the goalie,' and I fed him - and thank God he put it away."
*3-3, 86': Left out of the side in the team's opener against Stony Brook, preseason All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference selection Melvin Blair made his presence felt with a cracking half-volley from atop the 18-yard box that beat Fondi with pace.
*4-3, Canisius, 91': Brady delivered the heroics just 32 seconds into the extra frame, as Blair jockeyed for a loose ball at the edge of the 18-yard box and flipped the ball in Brady's direction. The striker hammered his shot first time, leaving Fondi with virtually no time to react.
"Melo [Blair] did a great job getting the knockdown ball," Brady added.
*Canisius High School alum Wes Rider, subbed into the game late in the first half, made an impact as a right back, hassling jitterbug Bayley Winkel, one of FC Buffalo's top players from this summer, into a relatively ineffective second half.
*McGrane made four changes from the starting lineup in the opener, as starting keeper Marco Trivellato was replaced by Tramuta, Starson Sylvestre stepped in for Luca Slosser-McLean, Evan Walsh started in place of red-carded Manuelle Cavazzoli and Hakeem Milson was omitted in favor of Filippo Tamburini.
FINAL WORD: "Bad passing, terrible defending, and we didn't have the greatest preseason, we had lots of injuries and we're not playing really good out of the back, but we have a great mentality - coming back from three goals is amazing." - Lucian Preis
Canisius: Bryce Tramuta; Giovanni Coraggioso, Bjarki Benediktsson, Alex Grattarola, Starson Sylvestre; Hunter Walsh, Evan Walsh, Will Pauls, Lucian Preis, Troy Brady; Filippo Tamburini. Subs used: Melvin Blair, Eric Strauchen, Wes Rider, Hakeem Milson.
Robert Morris: Winter Fondi, Dylan Thomas, Eddie Thomas, Christopher Coridon, Gustaf Moberg; Kai Olguin; Bayley Winkel, Jake Cooper, Keane McIvor, Zac Sherman; Christian Coridon. Subs used: Corey McCurdy, Rafael Bruzual, Roald Aas Ravlum, Mikey Horgan.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Griffins are home at 1 p.m. Sept. 3 against VMI.
*A full Griffs men's season outlook will be available in the coming days.