LOS ANGELES, Calif.-- It didn’t take long for Cal State Los Angeles to get on the board in Azusa Pacific’s season opener on Thursday night, and whatever early momentum the Eagles grabbed surely held out. The Eagles found the back of the net in the second minute after a deep cross fell out of keeper Chip Cox’s hands, and was cleaned up for an easy score. CSULA later got another goal on a breakaway early in the second half before putting the finishing touches on the victory in the 74th minute.
“It was unfortunate to give up a goal so early. It was a mistake from Chip, who usually doesn’t make mistakes. He’s one of the best keepers we’ve had since I’ve been here, and it was something I’ve never seen him do, whether in practice or in a game. He felt awful about it, but I thought he and the rest of the team did a good job putting it behind them. I thought we responded fairly well and still settled in to playing quality soccer despite giving up a goal early on,” said head coach Dave Blomquist.
CSULA controlled the possession, recording a 15-4 shot advantage in the match, while limiting the Cougars to just two shots on goal in only their second season-opening loss since 2000. The Cougars, however, had their fair share of chances in the second half, but couldn’t cash in on some key opportunities.
“I felt like we moved the ball pretty well through our back four, but couldn’t find full possession into our final third. It didn’t result in the type of scoring opportunities we want. If we can execute a little better we’ll create a lot more chances. Cal State L.A. is a very good team, and they made it very difficult for us. They’re very well organized, and were quick on the counter,” said Blomquist.
The Eagles’ Andre Bissmark scored the first and last goals of the match, while T.J. Perez gave CSULA a 2-0 edge in the second minute of the second half after Troy Dumlao intercepted a pass and shuffled it to Perez, who found the back of the net on a breakaway.
Cox tallied four saves in the loss, while sophomores Keyran Kelly, Daniel Stratton, and Raul Martinez each finished with a shot in the match. Azusa Pacific got off its first shot in the 13th minute when Kelly sent his attempt over the bar, but the team didn’t record a shot for the rest of the first half while holding onto a 1-0 deficit
The Eagles pushed their lead to two goals when Troy Dumlao found Perez in the 47th minute, and the Cougars tabbed their first shot of the second half when Martinez had his look sail wide. In the 64th Azusa Pacific had a chance to do some damage off a set piece, but couldn’t convert. Andrew Delaplane found Stratton near the goal, but CSULA’s Steven Barrera was there for the save. Seconds later Billy Flores tried to knock one in, but Barrera was again in position for a stop, deflecting the shot out of bounds for Azusa Pacific’s second corner of the night.
From that point on the Cougars couldn’t get anything going, and eventually saw CSULA score a third goal to seal a 3-0 loss.
“Their third goal was a high quality score, but I felt like we could have avoided their first two goals. But we still dealt with the situation and played well for the most part. We’ll take away some things from the match. I thought we had some chances and we increased our dangerous play throughout the game, which is a great thing. If we can keep doing that, then it bodes well for the future. There were some things that we’ll build on, but have to forget about it and move on because it doesn’t get any easier,” said Blomquist.”
Azusa Pacific will have a chance to bounce back on Saturday night when it welcomes Cal State Dominguez Hills to the Cougar Soccer Complex for a men’s and women’s double header. The women’s match is set to start at 5 p.m., while the men’s game is slated for 7:30 p.m. The Toros and Cougars played to a 1-1 draw in last season’s meeting.