October 16, 2012
Santa Barbara, CA - The day started with a mechanical breakdown on the way to Santa Barbara. It ended with a jubilant and uneventful ride home as The Master's College men's soccer team rallied with two goals in the final 18 minutes to stun Westmont 2-1 Tuesday afternoon.
Not only did the victory snap the Mustangs' four-game winless skid (6-8-1) but it also drew the club even with the Warriors in the fight for the sixth and final playoff spot in the GSAC at 2-4-1. Only the top six teams in the conference will qualify for the GSAC Tournament that starts on October 31.
But, the victory didn't come easy as both the score and the tenor of the match would indicate. In fact, if one team seemed trending toward a win as the game progressed, it was the host Warriors who had several golden opportunities in the first half but failed to capitalize.
One of those came 12:37 into the match when Mustang goalie Andrew Bussell (Bakersfield, CA) made a stunning save on a penalty kick by Westmont's Emmanuel Akyen. It was the first of three remarkable goal-denying stops the senior keeper made in the opening half. Bussell wound up with five saves in the first frame.
His Westmont counterpart, Matthew McNab, on the other hand, only faced two shots on goal by the Mustangs and turned back both as the game went to the break deadlocked at nil.
That all changed 4:34 into the closing period when Gerald Ben, the GSAC's second-leading scorer, took a pass from Akyen and beat an onrushing Bussell one-on-one with a shot into an open net for the match's first tally.
With the Mustangs playing mostly in retreat against an aggressive Warrior offense (nine shots in the second half), it appeared that one goal would be enough.
But, all that changed 23 minutes later and even then in a period of four minutes the momentum and the direction of the match changed dramatically. In a matter of two sequences, a once unproductive Mustang offense turned lethal, scoring twice to pull out the win.
The first of those game-changing plays happened with just over 17 minutes (72:54) remaining when sophomore midfielder Julio Barrios (Rosamond, CA) sent a beautiful corner kick over a collection of players to a wide-open Austin Michelson (Scotts Valley, CA) who kicked it past McNab to tie the match. It was the senior's third tally of the campaign.
Then, just over three minutes (76:19) later the Mustangs struck once more and this time it proved to be decisive. On one more rush toward the Westmont goal, the Mustangs benefitted when Nick Saldivia (Granada Hills, CA) was pulled down in the box, awarding the club a penalty kick. Unlike the Warriors' failure to capitalize on a similar opportunity in the first half, the Mustangs made the most of theirs as sophomore Taylor Shahi (Santa Rosa, CA) shot one by a diving McNab for a 2-1 lead. It was the sophomore's team-leading seventh goal of the season.
The Warriors had one more chance but some metal got in the way when a chip across the Mustang goal mouth eluded Bussell and hit the right post, bouncing away and taking Westmont's hopes with it. That was enough as the Mustangs escaped the Central Coast with a huge road victory.
Hoping to build on this win and create some momentum down the stretch that will improve their playoff seeding, the Mustangs return to Placerita Canyon on Saturday to host winless Arizona Christian in a 1:00pm start.