AZUSA, Calif. -- Sophomore forward Cito Soriano scored a game-winning “golden goal” on Azusa Pacific’s first shot in overtime, lifting the NAIA’s No. 9-ranked Cougars to a 2-1 win over Westmont Tuesday afternoon at the Cougar Soccer Complex.
Soriano finished with 2 goals on the day, and his first score almost held up for what would have been a 1-0 shutout until Westmont drew even with just 41 seconds to play on an own goal. In the final minute, Westmont’s Zach George sent a long, high throw-in from the right side into the penalty box, and in the scramble to clear the ball it skipped off the head of a Cougar defender into the net.
In the overtime period, Azusa Pacific built its attack deeper into Westmont territory until a cross came in from the left side. Westmont goalkeeper Sean Linn, who made 9 saves in the game, helped knock the ball away from the far post, but it fell to Soriano’s feet in front of the goal. Soriano immediately knocked it into the open net for the 95th-minute game-winner.
Azusa Pacific out-shot Westmont, 22-5, including a 12-3 margin in a scoreless first half, and Soriano finally opened the scoring midway through the second half with a 10-yard strike set up by senior defender Eric Winblad. Winblad won a header in the midfield and dribbled through an open path leading to the top of the Westmont penalty box with the defense on his heels. He led Soriano into the box to the left of the goal, and Soriano fired the ball into the side netting at the far post to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead in the 67th minute.
The goal finished off a 3-minute flurry of dangerous chances for the Cougars. In the 64th minute, a short corner kick to Soriano was played back to the far post, where junior defender Alex Earl put a perfectly-placed header towards the upper right corner, but Linn was able to corral it for the 2-handed save. A minute later, junior midfielder Cameron Valentine’s shot from the top of the box appeared to hit the forearm of a Westmont defender in front of the box, which should have resulted in an Azusa Pacific penalty kick. No foul was called, however, and the persistent Cougar attack continued until Winblad won the header on a Westmont clearance that resulted in the 67th-minute go-ahead score.
Westmont’s best chance to tie came in the 82nd minute, when the Warriors played a ball over the top of the drawn-out Cougar defense. The Westmont forward stayed onside and would have been able to take the ball into the box for a 1-on-1 opportunity against senior goalkeeper Tyler Stromberg. However, Stromberg recognized his defense’s positioning and came out of the box to clear the ball from danger before the opportunity could develop.
Stromberg finished with 4 saves, stopping all of Westmont’s shots on goal, including a 78th-minute stop that ended up being the last shot he would face in the game.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 13-2 overall, 6-2 in GSAC play, while Westmont falls 5-6 overall and 3-4 in GSAC. The Cougars host San Diego Christian on Saturday (Oct. 24) in the final home game before next Wednesday’s regular-season finale at Fresno Pacific.
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