Friday, August 31, 2012

Zags roll past Manhattan; Oregon State surprises No. 4 UCSB

Ludwigs (L) and Bevans (R) tallied for Gonzaga, Beavers get upset draw against Gauchos | Photos: Gerald Barnhart
After a surprising Gonzaga Nike Classic opener in which Oregon State played nationally ranked (Soccer America 4, NSCAA 9) UC-Santa Barbara to a 2-2 draw, the Gonzaga men had little trouble dispatching Manhattan Friday afternoon, pulling away with two second half goals in a 3-0 victory.

Oregon State 2:2 UC Santa Barbara

The Beavers took the initial lead in the match 13 minutes in when Jackson Groves fed the ball to Khiry Shelton for the opening tally. In an moderately-paced, even second half in which both teams tried to build their way into the attack, the Gauchos pulled even four minutes before the break when Dion Acoff turned and fired from the top of the area.

The Gauchos would take the advantage going into the break courtesy of a Javier Castro header with less than a minute remaining. Despite trailing for the first time this season, the Beavers fought back in the second half and found the equalizer through Alex Penny, who took a loose ball in the box and placed it into the upper left corner. UCSB nearly had a winner in the final minute of the match with a shot whistling just wide.

The Beavers have not defeated a top-10 team since 2004. It is the third time they have earned a draw, having previously tied No. 5 UCLA in 2009 and No. 1 Indiana in 2005.

Manhattan College 0:3 Gonzaga University

After a lengthy feeling out period in which the pace was rather slow, things began to build a bit after the Bulldogs took the lead 22 minutes in. A through ball from midfield sent Conner Bevans in all alone behind the flat, high defensive line. The charging goalkeeper George Ellis made a good initial stop point-blank at the top of the box, but the ball popped loose to the left, giving Bevans a second chance to bury it into an empty net.

“I think they pushed up their midfielders too and were trying to pressure us a little bit, and once we bypassed the midfield there was nothing left, just a flat line,” said Gonzaga head coach Einar Thorarinsson. “We could of, I think, maybe pushed another goal or two in had we just got the final ball in better.”

The Jaspers nearly tied it up two minutes later on a 30-yard free kick from Tommy Amos that narrowly missed the upper corner. The Zags almost doubled the lead two minutes before the intermission when Lars Ludwigs intercepted the ball along the back line and slipped it forward to an onrushing Clark Phillips, whose shot was stopped by the keeper.

The second half was almost entirely Gonzaga’s as the host team took firm control of possession and the tempo. It took them only four minutes to find the second tally off of a corner that narrowly went over Greg Carter’s head, but was collected by the Zags. Ludwigs would drop the ball back to Phillips, who buried it into the back of the net from inside the six.

From there it was like a skipping record as Gonzaga continually found space behind the Jaspers back line and sped by them for open opportunities that were either thwarted by the keeper or unfortunate finishing. Among the continual chances was a free kick from James Matern (Spokane, WA) that forced a diving stop from Ellis.

Ludwigs buffs Phillips' boot before scoring his own
The final goal came in the 77th minute on another second chance opportunity. Nick Hamer (Spokane, WA) fired a shot from outside of the box that was blocked by a defender with arms up in his chest that drew calls for a handball. Gonzaga was fortunate the whistle, however, did not sound as the ball came back out and Hamer dropped the ball out to Ludwigs, who crushed it from about 20 yards into the upper left corner.

“Lars has been scoring outside goals. This is the second goal, so he’s been showing that he can hit the ball. We just got to get him the ball out there more.”

Gonzaga nearly made it four a minute later when Bevans juked past a defender on the right wing and delivered a ball across the six that was narrowly missed by the foot of the crashing Phillips.

Manhattan would have one final chance with a 40 yard desperation shot by Sean Towey that forced a diving save from Ryan Caballero, who was rarely tested on the day with only three saves.

Gonzaga will face the Gauchos Sunday in the second game of another doubleheader featuring the four schools.

“They’re good. I watched them in the first half today. They are a solid team, they are good everywhere,” said Thorarinsson, who wanted to say he was surprised with the Oregon State result but stopped mid-thought.

“I think so… ah, well, Oregon State is cagey. This is kind of their second home, they’ve been here so many times – this is home away from home for them I think.”

The match-up may be a little tougher as the Zags lost a pair of players in the second half. Nick Hamer came out in the final minutes with a knock, but the more serious appears to be Nate Pacheco, who was fouled in the box. Swelling on his ankle led to his exit for x-rays.

“Pacheco looks out for Sunday,” said Thorarinsson. “Nick had some pretty good swelling on his shin.

“Pacheco is a very calm influence on the team. Settles it down and controls the ball. We’re gonna miss him, if he’s not going to be able to play on Sunday.”

Additional Highlights: In the seventh minute Gonzaga with nice build up gets Phillips behind the defense, potentially offside, but he was unable to finish… A diagonal ball in the 11th minute across the top of the 18 found Bevans open on the right, but his shot by the charging keeper narrowly missed the far post… Manhattan’s Kevan Lewis floated a shot from 25 yards out on the left that narrowly soared over the crossbar in the 12th minute… A second chance on a corner comes to Alec Cutter (Spokane) in the 19th minute, but the shot goes wide of the near post from 14 yards… In the 20th minute a ball put Matern behind the defense, but with a defender closing on his shoulder and the goalkeeper approaching he could not get his footwork right on the ball to get a shot off.

Additional Thorarinsson Quotes:

“In areas where they pressed us they were more intense, and they pushed more guys forward. They were desperate during the late 15-20 minutes, they had some good looks.”

“I thought in the first 10 minutes we did not play our best. Finally, with that goal I think we boosted ourselves a little bit.”

“Clark (Phillips) is always active, always hunting for a goal.”