No. 25 South Carolina (9-5-1 overall, 4-1-1 C-USA) fell 2-1 at Stone Stadium Wednesday night to No. 8 Charlotte (10-2-1, 5-1-0 C-USA) in a showdown of the two top teams in Conference USA.
The eighth-ranked 49ers struck first in the opening minutes of the match when Maxi Rodriguez found the back of the net off a blocked shot by Marco Sunol-Rojas in the fourth minute. The goal was set up by a free kick played into the box by Brandt Bronico.
The Gamecocks controlled possession for a vast majority in the remainder of the first period, tallying four corner kicks and several opportunities to score. Freshman striker Luca Mayr tallied four shots and senior Koty Millard fired two shots, both on goal.
Carolina's best chance in the first half came on a flurry of shots in the 42nd minute. Millard rocketed a ball at the net that was saved by Elliot Panicco. Kevin Walker dialed up a shot after the save that was blocked. Christoffer Wallander Ianev then fired a dart off the rebound from Walker's shot that missed wide.
Charlotte held a 1-0 advantage as the team's headed to the locker room for halftime.
The 49ers came into the matching leading the nation in team goals against average, but South Carolina again maintained possession of the ball for most of the second half, tallying several offensive threats and four more corner kicks.
The Gamecocks patience offensively payed off in the 60th minute. Mayr played a beautiful bending boot into the box that Bjorn Gudjonsson was able to dive in front of and head in to the back of the net to tie the score at 1-1.
Senior Kurtis Turner was whistled for a foul in the 74th minute on an aggressive play on the ball, setting up a free kick for Charlotte. Matej Dekovic fired a shot from 27-yards out that was deflected into the top part of the far post past the outstretched arms of goalkeeper William Pyle for the game-winning goal.
Carolina would tally the only remaining shot in the match when Gudjonsson had a solid chance from 13-yards out on a dish from Mayr in the 80th minute. Gudjonsson's shot missed just wide to the near post.
Charlotte now leads the C-USA standings with 15 points after the win. South Carolina is alone in second with 13 points, holding a one-point edge over No. 14 Kentucky (10-3-2 overall, 4-2 C-USA).