BEAVERTON, Ore. -- It took less than 2 minutes after surrendering a go-ahead goal for Azusa Pacific to catch the break it was looking for, but the NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Simon Fraser (B.C.) protected its 1-0 lead despite playing a man down over the final 76 minutes to upset the top-ranked Cougars Saturday afternoon in the final game of the Far West Challenge at the Nike World Campus. The shutout defeat was the first for Azusa Pacific in nearly 2 seasons.
Neither team managed a shot until just after the 12-minute mark of the contest, when Stefano Pannu’s corner kick fell to the feet of Milos Jeftic, who put the chance away from 5 yards out to give the Clan a 1-0 lead. However, just 96 seconds after the goal, Pannu’s reckless challenge near midfield earned him a red card and automatic ejection from the contest.
The ensuing free kick from midfield nearly led to the equalizer, but junior forward Mike Wilson’s shot went just wide of the goal. Simon Fraser used the near-miss as a spark to organize its defense more effectively, and the Cougars didn’t manage another shot until the 30th minute.
While the offense sorted out its timing issues after drawing 9 offsides calls a day earlier, Azusa Pacific was only able to put 4 of its 12 shots in the game on frame. Simon Fraser goalkeeper Thomas Lindley, a 2007 NAIA All-American third-teamer, turned away all 4 shots on goal, all in the second half, to preserve the shutout.
Senior midfielder Ryan Cheek, a Beaverton native, put both of his chances on goal, and junior goalkeeper Tyler Stromberg made a pair of saves in his first start of the season.
Azusa Pacific drops to 1-1-2 on the season, losing in the regular season for the first time since a 1-0 defeat to Hope International on Oct. 11, 2006, a 26-game stretch. The Cougars return to action on Wednesday, Sept. 10, paying a visit to NAIA independent Cal State San Marcos for a 4 p.m. contest.