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AZUSA, Calif.-- In the first Pacific West Conference matchup between a pair of all-too familiar opponents, it appeared that the Azusa Pacific men’s soccer team was well on its way to a victory over the reigning PacWest champions, California Baptist. But that all changed when Cougar keeper Joe Geletko was red-carded in the 63rd minute, allowing CBU a chance to not only tie the match at 2-2 on a penalty kick, but play with a one-man advantage for the remainder of the contest. Azusa Pacific, however, responded in impressive fashion, scoring the game-winner in the 84th minute on Oktay Bulut’s second goal of the match, as the Cougars posted their biggest win of the season in a 3-2 defeat of the Lancers.
The Cougars out-shot the preseason PacWest favorites 19-9 in a match that saw six yellow cards and two red cards, leading to CBU ending the game with a two-man advantage after Carlos Garcia Partida was excluded in the 89th. Bulut recorded his second straight two-goal game and added an assist, while freshman forward Keenan Armbrust scored his third goal of the year.
“I think it says a lot about the team. We were tied 2-2 with a man down and nobody stopped playing. After they tied it I had doubts of course, it’s normal, but it was just for a minute. But then I looked at all of the guys and thought about all of the work we put in and I was optimistic that we could do it,” said Bulut, who now paces the Cougars with five goals.
“Everyone knows that they have a good team, and it makes you even happier about the win, being down a man tied at 2-2 and still coming out ahead. It was good.”
After Geletko was booked on an aggressive play against a CBU forward, senior reserve keeper Jeff Dunn took over between the posts, just as CBU took control of the match, notching the equalizer on the ensuing penalty kick to tie it at 2-2. Prior to that play CBU had registered just five shots in 63 minutes, but finished with nine after applying pressure with the one-man advantage.
The Lancers almost took the lead when Michael Salazar broke through the Azusa Pacific defense, flying towards the goal for a one-on-one with Dunn. But the senior from Orangevale, Calif. made his lone save of the game stopping Salazar with an unbelievable block to keep the match knotted at 2-2.
“Credit to Jeff for being ready and training hard every day for that opportunity. He made one massive save, and that really saved the game at that point. He did an excellent job,” said head coach Dave Blomquist.
“It was surprising. Subbing in for a keeper that gets a red card is not something that happens that often. It’s hard to be warmed up for that, but I was excited to go in,” said Dunn. “I want to do whatever it takes to help us win, whether it be on the bench or in the goal. I just want to support my team and get the win.”
Dunn was also assisted by a few key defensive stops from his teammates. In the 80th minute CBU’s Salazar again got past the Azusa Pacific defense, streaking towards the goal along the left side before senior center back Hiroshi Metzker caught up with the forward and applied pressure to force him to place his shot left of the post. Then in the 86th minute California Baptist nearly scored on a set piece when Dunn made an aggressive move to punch out the service on the far side of the box. With the keeper out of position CBU shot the ball towards the back of the net, but senior Michael Sahagian worked his way into the goal and headed it out to preserve the 3-2 lead.
CBU finished with nine shots, five of which came after the Cougars went a man-down in the 63rd. Azusa Pacific scored the game-winner when the Lancers were called for a foul in the box, leading to the match’s second penalty kick. On the play Bulut was tabbed to take the shot, and the junior forward cashed in to give Azusa Pacific a 3-2 edge in the 84th.
“It took a lot of guts, determination and desire to find a way to the result. Some of the tactics that you head into a match with will change throughout the course of a game. So I thought the whole group, after the red card, did a great job of coming together on the field, not conceding another goal and eventually getting the game-winner,” said Blomquist. “We knew coming in that it was going to be a good game and a tough battle. It’s a great victory as we continue in the Pacwest.”
Bulut had multiple opportunities in the match, posting 10 shots with five on goal, including the first goal of the night when he recovered his own shot and put it away in the 21st minute. CBU then tied it up two minutes later when Jonathan Fausto played a through ball for Jonathan Garcia and slotted it near side from 25 yards out. Through the first 45 minutes Azusa Pacific controlled possession, tallying nine shots in the first half, while holding CBU to three.
Early in the second half Bulut made his presence known again, finding Armbrust in the box before the freshman gathered it and placed it left post to give Azusa Pacific a 2-1 edge in the 50th minute. In the 56th minute Salazar nearly put away a free kick from 35 yards out, but bent it just left of the goal. Two minutes later Jeremy Bishop almost gave Azusa Pacific a commanding two-score lead when he found himself along the right side of the box one-on-one with the keeper. The junior forward sent a shot towards the goal, but Joey Pacheco made a great diving stop, barely getting his left hand on it for one of his eight saves on the night.
The Lancers eventually notched the equalizer on a PK before Azusa Pacific took back the lead with one of its own. The win was the Cougars’ second of the PacWest season, and was California Baptist’s first conference loss of the year. Azusa Pacific gets back on the field on Tuesday when it travels to San Diego for a match against Point Loma. The game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m.