AZUSA, Calif. -- The NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Azusa Pacific prevailed over No. 13 Concordia by a final score of 5-2 Tuesday afternoon at the Cougar Soccer Complex, but the score hardly indicates the late-game explosion the Cougars needed to avoid its first loss and a major upset.
Azusa Pacific rallied over the final 25 minutes with 4 goals to overtake a Concordia squad that controlled play for much of the game until Cito Soriano opened the floodgates for a Cougar onslaught that in the end justified Azusa Pacific’s national billing.
Soriano beat the Concordia keeper Mike Radchuk low to the far post from 15 yards out in the 68th minute. Senior MF Mike Wilson, who had just been put into the match, headed the ball directly to Soriano’s feet, and the sophomore from Hesperia, Calif., fired a rocket as he turned 180 degrees to give Wilson his sixth assist of the season
The contest stayed tied 2-2 for another 15 minutes until Soriano found Baker on the left side. Baker fired a shot from15 yards out that dribbled between the legs of a Concordia defender, under the Radchuk’s out-stretched arm, and just inside the near left post for what ultimately proved to be the game winner. Baker has now scored in each of the Cougars’ 4 Golden State Athletic Conference games this season.
This goal was the first of 3 goals scored by Azusa Pacific in the final 10 minutes of the game. Brett Taylor headed in a pass from Nathan Nienhuis in the eighty-second minute to double up on Concordia. Vini Dantas tapped in a cross from Soriano in the closing seconds to complete the scoring. The goal was Dantas’ team leading ninth of the season, and Soriano’s fourth point of the game.
Taylor scored the game’s first goal in the twelfth minute, tapping in a nifty left cross from Davis Delemarter from four yards out.
Later in the half Azusa Pacific’s senior GK Tyler Stromberg made the first of 2 mistakes, handling the ball outside of the keeper box to give Concordia a close free kick. Concordia’s Ryan Angell capitalized on the chance and scored from 18 yards out to tie the game 1-1.
Concordia took lead on Alex Picarelli’s long arching shot from 22 yards out that Stromberg mishandled in 43rd minute. Stromberg managed to get two hands on the ball, but he deflected the ball up into the cross bar and the ball caromed into the net.
The game featured 5 yellow cards (2 against Azusa Pacific, 3 against the Eagles).
The physical play came as no surprise. The Eagles and Cougars have fought for the top 2 spots in the GSAC for the past 3 years. They even met for in the 2007 NAIA championship game, won by Azusa Pacific for its first national crown.
With the win the Cougars improve to 11-0 overall, 4-0 in GSAC. Concordia falls to 6-4 overall, 2-1 in GSAC play. Azusa Pacific plays its next 2 games on the road, first visiting Biola on Saturday (Oct. 10), and then at The Master’s on October 14.