October 10, 2008

Men topple #15 Metro State

The CSU-Pueblo men’s soccer team put forth a gallant and spectacular effort on Friday to slay nationally ranked Metro State.  A brace of goals from newly minted striker Udobong Obotette (Sr., Eugene, Ore.) and a special blast by John Christy (Sr., Layton, Utah) gave the ThunderWolves the cushion necessary to secure the 3-2 victory, which was made to seem much closer thanks to a bizarre Metro State comeback in the game’s dying moments.

 

Metro State, recently ranked #15 in the nation by the NSCAA, looked to be in trouble from the get go, as the CSU-Pueblo men set the pace and looked comfortable in possession.  The team kept the ball on the ground and worked it around the pitch well, knocking it back when under pressure and winning possession well when necessary.

 

About the only thing that interrupted the men’s rhythm was the stiff breeze blowing out of the north.  In the first half, almost every CSU-Pueblo ball into the box was blown over the south goal.

 

That didn’t impede the team offensively, though, and Obotette validated the team’s early dominance in the 15th minute.  He took a quick feed from Robert Kinsey (RFr., Denver, Colo.) and created himself some space amongst three Metro defenders before slotting past the keeper.

 

The early strike seemed to stun the visitors, but they soon sprung to life.  The Roadrunners made a couple of substitutions and started to attack with more zest.  Despite the absence of Kellen Johnson, their leading scorer, Metro turned up the heat and began a short period of dominance by forcing Pack goalie Chris Smith (So., Colorado Springs, Colo.) into parrying a cross over the bar.  The Roadrunners then earned three consecutive corner kicks, marking their best chance to score in the first half.

 

The momentum soon swung back in the Pack’s direction, though, and despite Metro’s players telling each other to keep the ball and play it short, the ThunderWolves were still able to control the pace of play.  Dylan Cook (Jr., Albuquerque, N.M.) shook a defender and let loose an opportunistic shot in the 32nd minute before Obotette knocked a cross off the post.

 

Two minutes later, Obotette again found himself with some space in the midst of Metro’s defense.  He enticed the Metro keeper a short way off of his line before driving the ball into the back of the net, giving the ThunderWolves an impressive lead.

 

Johnny Valenzuela (Jr., Las Cruces, N.M.) almost increased the Pack’s halftime advantage, but instead blazed over two minutes before the break.

 

Metro State came out of halftime eager to make up some ground, but the ThunderWolves raised their own level even higher.  Smith pounced on a through ball, snuffing out an early Roadrunner attack, and the CSU-Pueblo midfield looked tidy, sprinkling short passes in all directions and coming up with good combination play.

 

Metro State delivered a wake up call, though, when Smith got caught coming out to collect a pass.  The Roadrunners’ shot went into the side netting, but the near miss left little doubt about the danger of the two goal lead.

 

Moments later, as if he was spurred on by that incident, Christy came up from his position in defense, dribbled through the heart of the Metro State defense, and powered a low drive through traffic and into the back of the net in the 69th minute for the team’s third goal.

 

Valenzuela had another opportunity to put the game out of reach with nine minutes left, but again saw his shot fly over the bar.

 

The Pack then looked set to ride out a frantic Metro State attack, and placed five men across the back line, determined to keep the shut out.  Smith barked out to his defense to keep their resolve for the last five minutes, but it almost wasn’t enough.

 

Metro got one back at the 87:05 mark, when a glancing header dropped over Smith’s head and into the goal.  Seven seconds later, Metro’s Joey Duran sent a long ball forward that looked set to drift over the goal, but instead it cruelly set itself into the top corner, bringing the Roadrunners back to within one goal.

 

Coach Roy Stanley sent his starters back onto the field and watched them desperately fling the ball back towards the Metro State goal for the final two minutes of the game.

 

“Obviously it was a huge win for us,” said Stanley.  His men had not beaten a nationally ranked team since 2005, when CSU-Pueblo beat the then 16th ranked Colorado School of Mines.

 

“Everyone was vocal, and everyone worked hard,” he said.  He pointed to outstanding on-field communication as a major reason the team was able to coordinate its efforts so well against such a tough opponent.

 

Obotette expressed similar joy at the prospect of beating Metro.  “This is the first time in so long that we’ve beaten these guys.  I don’t even know the last time we beat them,” he said.  The senior from Oregon was delighted, saying “I have no words to express how big of a win it is.”

 

Christy, who’s swashbuckling goal probably put the ThunderWolves over the top, also said the win was huge, especially coming after a loss.  “We’ll feel pretty good coming off this win,” he said with a view towards future matches.

 

The ThunderWolves will no doubt enjoy their famous victory, but all attention will be on UCCS come Sunday.  The men take the field at 2:30 p.m. for the Parents’ Weekend matchup.