If you look closely at Brett Croft’s forehead you might see the indentations made by repeated collisions with a soccer ball.
Well, maybe not.
It certainly seems possible, though, with all the headers the senior midfielder has put on or in the net over the past two weeks. The trend continued Thursday afternoon when Croft (Hesperia, CA) headed in the game-winner with 5:40 remaining to lift The Master’s past Johnson & Wales of Colorado 2-1 in a non-conference match on Reese Field.
The victory was the club’s third in a row, equaling a season-high, and sixth in their last seven outings, raising their record to 9-6-1.
Croft’s second game-decider of the season and fifth goal of the year came off a sharp cross from Lloyd Virgill ((Guatemala City, Guatemala), heading the ball past Wildcat goalie Trevor Shepherd.
Elated about Croft’s game-winner, Mustang coach Jim Rickard said, “Those are valuable finishes and create confidence in our overall attack.”
That tally snapped a 1-1 tie that had been created just over 15 minutes earlier (69:06) when Virgill and Humphrey Mahowa (Malawi, Africa) combined to assist on Scott Landon’s (Northridge, CA) first goal in the blue and gold. Mahowa, the club’s leading scorer with 23 points (10 goals, three assists) tapped a corner kick to Virgill who hooked a pass into the box where Landon found the ball and headed it past Shepherd.
Happy about Landon’s first career goal and Virgill’s passing, Rickard commented, “I was excited for Scott Landon to get his first goal and to see Lloyd get two quality assists.”
Those two goals capped off a dominant second half in which the Mustangs outshot the Wildcats 12-0. It was an indication of Rickard’s extensive use of his starters in the second half in contrast to the opening 45 minutes when he went primarily with his second unit.
That was a strategy employed by Rickard to rest his starters as much as possible in advance of Saturday’s GSAC showdown with second-place and defending conference champion Concordia. Commenting on that, Rickard said, “We were committed to playing everyone today so they received some valuable experience heading into the end of the regular season and the playoffs.”
It worked for the majority of the opening stanza, at least after the 2:30 mark when Wildcat Jesus Mojardin headed one past Mustang keeper Casey Phillips (Granada Hills) for a 1-0 lead. It was the sixth time this season a Mustang opponent has scored in a match’s first 10 minutes. Phillips recorded a save later in the half, the only one of the afternoon en route to his third victory (3-3) of the year.
That put the Mustangs in catch-up mode throughout a first half in which they managed just one shot on goal, that off the foot of Joseph Hess (Laguna Niguel, CA) at the 39:28 mark.
Commenting on the victory, Rickard concluded, “It was a good team win today. We showed a lot of composure and maturity coming from behind fairly late in the game.”
Now, the Mustangs head into the final week of conference play in sole possession of third place (16 points) with an eye on Concordia (17 points) and the second seed in the upcoming GSAC Tournament.
They’ll be looking for some revenge on Saturday after losing to the Eagles 4-0 on September 23 in Irvine. The match kicks off at 1:30pm on Reese Field.