SAN RAFAEL, Calif.-- The Azusa Pacific men’s soccer team has mastered close games this season, and Saturday’s performance was just the latest piece of evidence to prove that these Cougars know how to win the tight ones. Azusa Pacific got a goal in the opening minutes, and then held off a young Dominican squad over the balance of the match, registering the team’s fourth consecutive one-goal win with a 1-0 defeat of the Penguins.
Keyran Kelly got the Cougars on the board in the fifth minute, and the defense limited Dominican (4-11, 2-8-1) to two shots on goal as Jeff Dunn secured Azusa Pacific’s fifth shutout this season.
“One of the keys for those types of victories this year are timely plays and that was the case today. Sometimes it just comes down to one play that you do really well in, and we saw that early with Keyran’s goal. Trenton played a great through ball, and Keyran got in behind keeper and finished far post and that really made the difference,” said head coach Dave Blomquist. “And we had key defensive plays as well. Jeff was really good in the goal, and with less than 10 minutes to play Billy Flores cleared one off the line off a corner. Plays like that are huge.”
Azusa Pacific created multiple quality chances, beginning with Kelly’s early strike. Nick Markham, Keenan Armburst, and Flores each put one shot on target, giving the Cougars a 4-2 edge in shots on goal with both teams tallying six shots on the day.
Dunn, who has had a part in three Cougar shutouts this season, had two saves, each of which came in the final 45 minutes of action.
“Jeff was a good matchup for them. He comes up big in the air and we needed that today. It helps that he’s from the northern California, so he had a chance to play in front of some people he knew. He’s a quality keeper and did great today,” said Blomquist.
The victory helped the Cougars to the top of the Pacific West Conference standings with an 8-1 clip in PacWest play. Azusa Pacific has won six straight contests, with just three matches remaining on the conference docket.
“It’s great to be near the top this late in the season. You always want to stay close to it. The guys have been working hard though the first part of the season, so it’s good for them to see the benefits of that hard work. But we know it’s far from over. We have three really tough games coming up. It’s going to be a fight to the finish,” said Blomquist.
Azusa Pacific will face three teams that are currently in the top-four of the conference standings, beginning with a road tilt against Fresno Pacific on Wednesday night. The Cougars will then return home for senior day against a California Baptist on Saturday before traveling to Point Loma in the regular season finale.