Now, this is the way Jim Rickard envisioned his team playing. An explosive offense, a tempo-controlling midfield, and a stingy defense all adding up to wins.
The 24th-year head coach’s squad displayed all of those Saturday afternoon as the Mustangs snapped a season-opening four-game losing skid with a 3-0 blanking of Westminster of Utah on Reese Field. The club’s first victory (1-4) of the 2014 campaign also avenged a 2-0 loss to the Griffins on August 23 in Salt Lake City.
That dominating defense sparkled early as it allowed no shots on goal through the match’s first 26 minutes. Meanwhile, the Mustangs pelted Griffin goalie Sean Lyne with six shots on goal over the first 22 minutes of play with nothing to show for it.
All of that changed, though, at the 22:56 mark when freshman Humphrey Mahowa (Malawi, Africa) notched his second goal in as many days, rifling one past Lyne from the left side off an assist from Vini Barauna (Sao Paulo, Brazil) for a 1-0 lead. Of his new forward, Rickard said, “…he was much more comfortable and able to assert himself more today.”
That was all the Mustangs would really need on the afternoon, however, they made sure there would be more considering their early-season offensive woes. With just 1:40 remaining in the opening half, junior Joey Mikulas (Monument, CO) made it a two-goal match, burying a free kick in the net from just over 18 yards out.
Mikulas’ first goal of the season capped off a first half in which the Mustangs outshot the Griffins 14-4. Mustang keeper Kyle Cunningham (Saugus, CA) recorded two saves over the opening 45 minutes of action.
The sophomore goalie had even more chances in the second stanza, making four more saves while recording his first shutout of the season and the third of his career.
His teammates gave him one more goal to work with in the 59th minute (58:01) when senior Brett Croft (Hesperia, CA) capitalized on a penalty kick after sophomore Zach Klindworth was taken down in the box. Croft wasted no time in putting the ball past Lyne for the game’s final score.
In victory, Rickard was elated for his club, saying, “…we were finally rewarded for our play. We were much more disciplined and played better as a unit rather than a bunch of individuals. It was a good team effort.”
After playing five matches in 16 days, the Mustangs, although they’d rather play sooner with their breakthrough today, get five days off before going back out on the road next Friday (September 12) at Cal State San Marcos.