COSTA MESA, Calif.-- In another tight match, the NAIA’s No. 11 ranked Azusa Pacific got its 10th win of the year thanks to Carlos Garcia-Patrida’s sixth career goal and Joe Geletko’s seventh shutout of the season as the Cougars defeated Vanguard 1-0 on Wednesday.
“I thought it was a great 90 minutes from us and a mature performance,” said Head Coach Dave Blomquist. “They’re a very good team…and tough to play against. We knew we had to be sharp defensively and I think the guys had great commitment to defend for 90 minutes.”
The Cougars (10-2-1) matched Vanguard shot-for shot (11 apiece), with the difference maker being Garcia-Partida’s lone score.
The match opened with the home team looking poised from the start as Vanguard got off three shots and dominated possession in the first 25 minutes. In the 22nd minute Vanguard’s William Pellow intercepted a pass, took two dribbles towards the box and settled from 35 yards out for a shot, but Geletko was there to keep the match scoreless.
Minutes later the Lions were whistled for a handball, setting up Michael Sahagian on an indirect free. His cross found the head of Lucas Young but his attempt was off target, hitting the side of the net. The Lions’ keeper, Cody Adams, took advantage of the center-back’s position on the field and ignited a fastbreak that saw Vanguard create an absolute gimme that was blown when the shot sailed well over the bar.
After alternating possessions freshman midfielder Jordan Markovich beat the Lions’ backline to get one-on-one with Adams, who then tackled him for what looked like a last-man foul. But instead of receiving a red card and giving the Cougars a PK, he was only whistled for a yellow; setting up a free kick five yards north of the box that would be blocked by the Lions well before it could do any harm.
In the 42nd minute Vanguard had another golden opportunity when a Lion player sent a cross in to the center of the box. Two Lions got a head on the ball, but somehow Azusa Pacific escaped with a corner.
At the half the teams were scoreless, despite the fact that Vanguard shot twice as much (8-4) in the first 45 minutes.
Two minutes into the second Oktay Bulut sent a free kick towards goal, but it landed in the arms of Adams, for one of the keeper’s two saves on the day.
Then in the 50th, Bulut and Nathan Nienhuis broke away from the pack, garnering the attention of the Lion defense while Garcia-Partida stood alone near the penalty spot. Bulut dumped it off to the freshman, who then settled it and beat the keeper for the first score of the match.
“Carlos has a nose for the goal, [he’s] great in the box, and composed. [On that play] he showed all of those qualities,” said Blomquist about his freshman forward.
Five minutes later Trenton Titus nearly gave Azusa Pacific a two-goal advantage when he headed a Sahagian cross towards the left post to beat the keeper. But just inches before the ball crossed the plain a Vanguard defender got his head on it to keep the home team within reach.
But the one-goal lead would be safe as Geletko stopped two Lion shots in the second half to post his seventh shutout of the season.
With the win Azusa Pacific improved to 4-1-1 in GSAC play, and sits just a half game back of first place with three matches to go. The Cougars will have a chance for their fourth GSAC win on Saturday as they welcome San Diego Christian for a home contest at 1 p.m.