AZUSA, Calif. -- The NAIA’s No. 12-ranked Azusa Pacific had a 2-0 first-half lead slip completely away in a 3-2 loss to No. 5-ranked Vanguard in the Golden State Athletic Conference men’s soccer opener Saturday afternoon at the Cougar Soccer Complex.
The game-winner came a mere instant before the final horn, with Andrew Casco lifting a 28-yard shot over the goalkeeper and just underneath the crossbar to complete Vanguard’s improbable comeback without any time to spare. It was the second of 2 Lions goals in the final 3:14, with the equalizer coming on Kevin Cornwall’s eighth goal of the year, an 87th-minute strike that finished off a pair of touches from Tomislav Colic and Jack Plummer.
The Cougars used a patient attack for much of the first half to pile up 12 shots and a 2-0 lead on scores from senior midfielder Brett Taylor and junior forward Vinicius Dantas. Taylor immediately put back a Dantas shot on goal saved by Vanguard goalkeeper Trevor Herrera, knocking the rebound into the open net from 11 yards out to give Azusa Pacific a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute.
Dantas doubled the lead in the 23rd minute when he took a pass from senior forward Alex Earljust outside the top of the box and tucked a low drive inside the right post.
However, the Cougar offense seemed impatient with the style of play that generated a huge advantage in ball possession and a 12-8 first-half advantage in total shots. Less than 90 seconds away from taking its 2-goal lead into halftime, Azusa Pacific committed a foul in the box. The ensuing penalty kick was converted by Colic to cut the lead to 2-1, although his low strike inside the left post was nearly tipped away by sophomore goalkeeper Joe Geletko, who did make a season-high 6 saves in the contest.
Azusa Pacific managed just 4 shots in the second half with a disjointed attack repeatedly plagued by inconsistent passing. Meanwhile, Vanguard began generating scoring chances and fired 8 shots after halftime, and the Lions generated 6 of their 9 corner kicks in the second half including 2 in the final minute of play to set up Casco’s game-winner.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific’s second in a row at home, the Cougars drop to 7-2 overall and suffer a GSAC-opening home loss at home for the first time since 1998. Vanguard remains unbeaten at 6-0-1 overall with a 1-0 GSAC mark. Azusa Pacific returns to action with a Wed., Sept. 29 visit to Hope International.