FRESNO, Calif.-- Fresno Pacific scored twice in the final 10 minutes of play to post a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Azusa Pacific men’s soccer team on Wednesday night. The Cougars fought back from an early 1-0 hole to take a 2-1 halftime lead before the Sunbirds got the equalizer in the 82nd minute and the go-ahead score in the 88th to upend the Pacific West Conference’s first place Cougars.
It was the Cougars’ first one-goal defeat since a 1-0 loss to Cal State Dominguez Hills on Sept. 7, ending a streak of 10 consecutive one-goal victories.
“It was another game of momentum swings. They started out quick, then we took control with two goals. Then in the beginning of the second half they created multiple chances and were on our side for much of the half,” said head coach Dave Blomquist. “It’s a tough loss. When you put so much emotion into a game it’s difficult. I’m really proud of the guys. They played well and played hard until the finish and that’s everything I want from them.”
The match was a stark contrast from the Cougars’ recent run of wins where they seemingly found ways to win regardless of the deficit, most notably in a 4-3 comeback win over Notre Dame de Namur last week.
The Sunbirds struck first with a goal in the third minute from Jorge Chedraui before Azusa Pacific found the back of the net twice in an 11 minute span to take a 2-1 lead after 45 minutes of action. Oktay Bulut recorded the equalizer in the 27th on a PK and Steven Shiokari connected with Keenan Armbrust in the 38th for the go-ahead score.
In the beginning of the second half Fresno Pacific created plenty of chances but the Cougar defense held off the surging Sunbirds to keep the Azusa Pacific lead at 2-1. But FPU finally broke through in the 82nd on Alvaro Nogales’ fifth goal of the season, and Gustavo Silva gave Fresno Pacific a 3-2 lead in the waning minutes to hand the Cougars their second PacWest loss this season.
Azusa Pacific was outshot 17-10 in the game, 11-6 in the second frame, while the Cougars generated six corner kicks compared to just one for the Sunbirds. Junior keeper Chip Cox registered four saves on the night as FPU put seven shots on frame.
Despite the loss Azusa Pacific still sits atop the PacWest standings, although the Cougars no longer control their own destiny. Azusa Pacific and California Baptist each have 24 points (8-2), while the Sunbirds jumped up to third place with 21 points with an extra conference match remaining on the schedule.
“For where we stand at this point, I’m really pleased with the team. We still have a lot to play for and we want to keep getting better. That is and will always be our goal. And as we head into the weekend it will be the same thing. We have a big match with CBU on Saturday and we’re excited to compete,” said Blomquist.
The Lancers and Cougars will square off at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday before Azusa Pacific concludes the regular season at Point Loma the following Saturday.