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AZUSA, Calif.-- For the second straight match the Azusa Pacific men’s soccer team appeared to be headed to overtime. But with the clock ticking down sophomore forward Keyran Kelly tucked in the game winner with 16 seconds left in regulation, lifting the Cougars to their third consecutive win following their 0-2 start. Azusa Pacific scored twice over the final eight minutes of play, breaking through after creating multiple opportunities throughout the course of the second half.
“We were getting some chances in the second half and I felt like the momentum was with us. They were great defensively, but I felt if we could keep pressure on we’d break through,” said head coach Dave Blomquist.
“It was a great play by Raul Martinez to earn the corner. And then with not much time remaining Garrett Mehrguth served a great ball. We had the numbers in the box and we were a bit fortunate it landed by Keyran. But he tucked it away very nicely.”
Azusa Pacific overcame a 1-0 first half deficit, getting the equalizer on a PK from Oktay Bulut in the 82nd minute, and clinching it eight minutes later off a set piece after the Cougars finally cashed in with Kelly’s score.
The Cougars took 13 second half shots, and controlled possession, limiting Concordia to just two second half shots. And while the Cougar offense kept Concordia on its heels, Jr. keeper Chip Cox came up big when he needed to, recording three saves, including a beautiful stop in the 21st minute. With Rayane Bouarradj’s shot headed towards the upper-v Cox made a leaping, diving stop to snare it with two hands that even made Bouarradj give an acknowledging clap.
The Eagles lone goal came on an unfortunate break for Cox, when Adrian Padilla’s shot from 15 yards out deflected off an Azusa Pacific player, changing its trajectory from right side to left before it found the back of the net.
The Cougars earned eight corners in the match, and pressed the Eagles over the final 45 minutes. Oktay Bulut nearly knotted the score at 1-1 in the 49th minute when he creased the defense along the right side before trying to tuck it near side, but his shot careened off the post. Later in the half Mehrguth served up another cross, sending it far side to Thursday night’s hero Keenan Armbrust, who headed it towards the back of the net, but had it cleared by a Concordia defender.
Senior midfielder Trenton Titus made his return, and created a pair of really nice chances. Late in the first half he made his way downfield, and got within 10 yards before having his header sail left of the post. Later in the second half, with just minutes remaining, he took an aggressive shot from the top of the box, but put it just off the mark.
Azusa Pacific, which has shown marked improvement over the course of the young season, will take its three-match winning streak into Pacific West play next week. The surging Cougars will open at Holy Names on Thursday before taking on Academy of Art on Saturday.
“We know we aren’t quite there yet but we’re getting better. Our mindset is to continue to strive for greatness. It’s been a nice stretch leading into the PacWest, and we’ve seen a lot of improvement over the five games, and we hope we can take that into conference play,” said Blomquist.