It was a hard fought battle, and the athletes have the bruises to show it.
With 320 people in attendance, the Cougars met their match tonight against the Broncos of Cal Poly Pomona with a 3-2 loss. This is coming shortly after the Men’s Soccer team held the #1 spot in the PacWest conference with a 2-0-1 record and were recently named the 5th best team in the nation.
The Broncos kicked off the first half and put the pressure on early. But the Cougars were prepared. The game featured an intense back-and-forth beginning, with three fouls within the first ten minutes. Azusa continued to look for openings to strike, but ultimately played a ten minute round of keep-away due to the defense they faced.
That came back to haunt them when their touches went awry. A Broncos throw-in landed within feet of the goal, and despite their efforts to get it out, Broncos player Paul Henschke landed the first goal of the game, putting Cal Poly up 1-0.
For the next twenty minutes, the momentum shifted in favor of the Broncos, who landed many shots on goal, but did not score thanks to four saves by Cougar goalkeeper Brendan Fix.
Although Fix played a strong defense, it wasn’t until the 35th minute that APU turned the tides. Freshman Marco Astorga, assisted by teammate Jonah Peck, fired a laser towards the Broncos’ goal and sank the ball into the back-right corner of the net to tie the game.
The rest of the first half was owned by the Cougars. Their touches were cleaner, their communication was better and the ball was moving faster. Their teamwork resulted in a second goal in the 38th minute of play by senior David Kwinn with another assist from Peck, putting the Cougars in the lead for the first time this game.
The Cougars then ran out the clock until halftime, leaving the score at 2-1 Cougars.
Aggression tainted the second half, with two fouls preceding the next goal, which was scored by Pomona’s Eduardio Faria, tying the game at 2-2 in the game’s 54th minute.
Following Faria’s goal, both teams made multiple attempts at scoring. In the 72nd minute, APU had a crucial corner kick, and although the ball was within striking distance of the goal, it slipped past every player and out of bounds.
The Broncos had two notable failed attempts at a goal, with Henschke missing what could have been a game-winning penalty kick and Jerry Ramirez scoring a goal while being offside due to him falling for the Cougar defense’s offside trap.
Ramirez took the frustration he had from being offside and used it to draw yet another foul by pulling Cougar Leo Tomasi down to the floor. The play was one of four yellow cards given in the half alone, one of which was given to Cougar David Kwinn. Those four fouls were less than a quarter of the fouls in the second half.
The second half saw a total of 18 fouls, 16 of which were committed after Faria’s game-tying goal. It was nearly an even split, with the Cougars committing seven fouls and the Broncos committing the other nine.
Even with all of the fouls and cards, the final goal of the game was scored in the game’s 81st minute, by Broncos player Max Laguna. The Cougars fought through the final nine minutes of the game, but were unable to score. When the clock hit zero, the final score was 3-2, giving the Cougars their first loss of the season.
The Cougars now hold a record of 2-1-1. Their next game will be an away game on Saturday at 3:00p.m., where they will face Cal State San Bernardino.