AZUSA, Calif.-- The Azusa Pacific men’s soccer team has never lost to Hope International at home, but early in the second half of Wednesday night’s contest that mark appeared to be in jeopardy as the Royals scored two quick goals to tie the match and take whatever momentum the Cougars had built with a 2-0 halftime lead. Azusa Pacific (2-0-1), however, responded with three unanswered goals to power past Hope International (4-1) with a 5-2 victory, improving to 11-0-1 all-time against the Royals at home.
Steven Shiokari scored the first goal of the match on a shot that appeared to be a cross, but bent just inside the far post in the 15th minute. Carlos Garcia Partida then made it a 2-0 game in the 36th minute after taking a cross from freshman striker Keyran Kelly in the middle of the box, spinning and scoring from 10 yards out.
In the first 45 minutes the Cougars outshot Hope International 8-2, holding the Royals scoreless as senior keeper Jeff Dunn made his first start of the season. Azusa Pacific dominated possession throughout the opening half, and allowed Hope International to get just on shot on target.
In the first 10 minutes of the second half the Royals looked like a different team, creating multiple chances before breaking through for their first goal of the match in the 55th minute. On the play Edgar Bran dribbled through a crowd of Azusa Pacific defenders, positioning himself within the 18 before striking it past Dunn. Three minutes later Hope International notched the equalizer after Bran touched it to Zach Hoffer along the left side of the box. Hoffer then took one dribble and drilled a left-footer near side into the back of the net, tying the score and giving Hope International control of the match.
But Azusa Pacific has dealt with adversity twice already this season, trailing both Cal State Dominguez Hills and Biola in matches this year before responding in impressive fashion. Wednesday night was no different.
Eight minutes after the Royals made it a 2-2 game the Cougars scored their first of three second half goals. Jeremy Bishop controlled a pass from Michael Sahagian, settling it off his chest and then slithering into the box to beat Jhovany Hernandez far post for the game-winner. In the 70th Kelly took a cross from Jamarko Washington on the left side and placed it just inside the near post for the first goal of his collegiate career.
Leonardo Grigg capped the scoring in the 85th, controlling his own rebound off the bar and heading it left post from seven yards out.
“Great credit to the guys that were in for the second half to not let conceding two goals take away from what we wanted to do. They stayed with it and to their credit we were able to come back with three goals,” said head coach Dave Blomquist. “It’s nice to have an end product to the good things you do in the game. I felt in our first few games we did a lot of nice things, but didn’t turn them into goals. So to come out and finish like we did tonight was nice. I thought the guys showed a lot of great quality in their passing and a great desire to score goals. I was impressed with their effort.”
Azusa Pacific held a 16-11 shot advantage in the match and put over half of its attempts (9) on target. Hope International ended with five shots on goal while Dunn posted three saves. There were five yellow cards and 36 fouls in the match, with Azusa Pacific committing 20 of them.
Next up for the Cougars is a trip to Vancouver for a match against Simon Fraser (B.C.). The Cougars and the Clan have met five times before, with Azusa Pacific holding a 4-1 all-time edge. The two teams played in three consecutive seasons from 2007-09, including a meeting in the NAIA semifinals where the Cougars ended an eight-match shutout streak for the Clan, advancing to the national championship game with a 2-1 win.
“It’s going to be a big test. We’ve had some great matches with Simon Fraser when they were NAIA. So to renew that in NCAA DIv. II will be really nice. I’m looking forward to it and I’m sure the guys are as well,” said Blomquist.
The match is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday night.