The No. 3 seed Concordia, back in the NAIA National Championship for the first time since 2008 and fifth overall, punched their ticket to Alabama on Saturday, November 17, at Eagles field, as they defeated the No. 30 seed Our Lady of the Lake (Texas), 1-0, in the NAIA Men's Soccer National Championship Opening Round.
Like so many teams have, the visiting Saints were content to stay back on defense, and wait for counter attack opportunities. The home Eagles almost saw their season slip away at 69:23 when OLLU's Osiris Estrada's shot bounced off the right post. Concordia rallied around that second chance and over the next 14 minutes fired four shots that had real chances to go in. Christian Ramirez's header off a corner kick went high at 78:20 and Ramirez went wide at 81:27. Then at 83:09, the Eagles finally broke through. Jacob Young's throw-in from the side bounced around in front of the net before freshman Joel Palomares found it and pounded it home from five yards. It was Palomares' third and by far biggest goal of his young Concordia career.
Concordia settled for the remainder of the game with ball control and an emphasis on defense. The Saints were unable to muster a shot in the final seven minutes. The Eagles had many chances to take the lead earlier, and outshot OLLU, 19-6 and 5-1 in shots on goal. The Eagles fired six shots through the first 15 minutes, two of them on goal. The Saints did a great job sinking their defense in, as most Concordia shots through the remainder of the first half were blocked or had little chance to go in.
In the second half Ramirez had an early chance at 48:18, but his shot sailed high. Jacob Young's header at 53:51 was a bit wide. OLLU had three shots over the next seven minutes, but all went wide, with a couple bouncing off the side of the net. Concordia's best early chance came at 63:29 when Edgar Orozco fired a bouncing ball into traffic, but OLLU goalkeeper Martin Hansson was up to the challenge. The game got a bit chippy leading up to the goal, as both teams felt the pressure as the clock ticked and three yellow cards were given.
Three minutes before Concordia's goal OLLU's Aaron Guerrero and Giovanni Sierra each had shots, with Concordia goalkeeper Julio Trejo saving Sierra's.
Two minutes later Palomares found the net and the Eagle bench exploded with celebration and relief.
"We knew this was going to be a tough game, as it was both team's potential last game," Concordia senior Armando Padilla said. "Their shot off the post shook us a bit and we responded positively. Going to Alabama is a great opportunity and hopefully we can take advantage of it."
Concordia goalkeeper Julio Trejo and his defense were tremendous again. Trejo had one save and came out to snub out multiple OLLU attacks. He recorded his eighth individual shutout to go with three team shutouts in 19 starts. He improved to 17-1-1 on the year. OLLU keeper Martin Hansson fell to 9-7-0 and had four saves.
The Eagles remained untouchable at home, finishing up at a perfect 12-0 at Eagles field. Aaron Guerrero led OLLU with two shots on the day.
"It was really a game of who can get that first goal," Concordia head coach Chris Gould said. "We had to earn it today and that (OLLU) was a very good team. I am so proud of our guys pulling together through adversity and finally punching that ticket to the big show. I am so happy for our seniors getting the chance to go to Alabama. They deserve it and they really put their mark on this program."
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has officially released the 32 qualifiers for the NAIA Men's Soccer National Championship Opening Round. The teams will play at 16 on-campus locations in the National Championship Opening Round on Nov. 17. The 16 opening round winners will advance to the 54th annual national championship final site from Nov. 26 - Dec. 1 at the Emory Folmar Soccer Complex in Montgomery, Ala.
Concordia will now travel to Montgomery, Alabama and the Emory Folmar YMCA Soccer Complex with the other 16 teams who advance out of the opening round. The Eagles await the winner of #14 seed Ashford (Iowa) and #19 seed Benedictine (Kansas). Their second round game will take place at 11:30 AM PST on Monday, November 26.
NeuLion, the NAIA's official video-streaming company of 12 select NAIA national championship events, will be broadcasting all matches of the 2012 Men's Soccer National Championship final site in Montgomery, Ala. Single day packages can be purchased for $9.95, while an all-tournament pass is available for $29.95. For more information and to pre-register, click here.
Concordia improves to 18-2-1, one win shy of tying the school record set in 2007, by the team that finished NAIA Runner-Up. OLLU ends their season at 12-8-1 after advancing to the NAIA Tournament for the first time in school history.