September 30, 2017
There's a reason why The Master's University men's soccer team had been undefeated through its last eight matches en route to an 8-1-2 record.
The Mustangs had scored first nine times and then usually extended their lead or turned it over to the defense and Casey Phillips for safe keeping.
Saturday in Phoenix that method didn't work as host Arizona Christian scored the match's first two goals and then fended off the Mustangs down the stretch to claim a 3-2 victory that snapped that eight-game unbeaten skein.
Losing for the first time since August 25, the Mustangs fell out of a first-place, GSAC tie and are now 3-1 in conference play and 8-2-2 overall.
After the match, TMU coach Jim Rickard was painfully candid, saying, "They broke us down defensively enough to create some quality chances and they converted. We lacked composure in front of the net and squandered several high-level opportunities. We lacked quality in the critical moments today and got punished for it."
Roberto Valenzuela got the Firestorm on the board 7:45 into play when he beat TMU keeper Casey Phillips from the left side and into the right side of the net. It was the only second time in five matches that the senior had allowed a goal.
He was perfect the rest of the first stanza, finishing with six saves over the opening 45 minutes. Meanwhile, his ACU counterpart, Brian Booker, was even better, stopping all six shots the Mustangs put on goal. He was really good in a two-minute window midway through the half when he stopped three shots. He also got some help from the post which kept Benjamin Tembo from tying the match at the 20:15 mark.
Tembo would have his revenge in the second half but his 16th goal of the year, the second-best mark in the NAIA, at the 60:13 mark, would only halve the deficit.
That's because ACU's Brian Segura beat Phillips with 8:45 gone in the second half for a 2-0 Firestorm lead.
Tembo made it a 2-1 game a little over six minutes later and the Mustangs were back in the match. Tembo's ninth goal in the last four games was made possible by a picture-perfect cross from Jonathan Brown, who recorded his fifth assist of the season.
It stayed a one-goal game until ACU's Anthony Archuleta scored a big insurance goal with 8:46 to play, picking up a loose ball in the box and rocketing it past Phillips and into the net. It marked the first time in 2017 that Phillips had allowed more than two goals in a match.
That proved to be the decider because TMU's Matt Logan got the Mustangs within one score on his third goal of the year at the 82:06 mark, heading a corner kick by Luis Garcia-Sosa past Segura. It was Garcia-Sosa's team-leading seventh assist of the season.
The Mustangs had one more chance to even the match, however, Leonardo Anjos' shot with 2:11 remaining just went wide left.
Despite giving up a season-high three goals, Phillips recorded nine saves, the second-highest total of his four-year career.
The Mustangs wound up outshooting the Firestorm 28-19 overall and had 10 shots on goal.
Hoping to rebound, the Mustangs return home next Thursday to face first-place and No. 16 Vanguard (4-0 in the GSAC) in a showdown on Reese Field. That's just the start of a tough, three-day stretch which concludes with a Saturday match against the conference's other unbeaten, Hope International.