Hope International University got the breaks early on Wednesday, The Master’s University caught a huge break late, and Mustangs goalie Kyle Cunningham made jaw-dropping saves in between.
The end result was a 2-2 tie after two overtimes in a Golden State Athletic Conference game at TMU.
Had it not been for Cunningham’s diving, lunging and soccer ball punching, the Mustangs (7-4-2 overall, 2-2-1 in GSAC) might have lost by five.
He finished with 11 saves.
“He saves incredible shots,” said TMU coach Jim Rickard. “Shots that their bench is halfway on the field celebrating, he’s getting a hand on.”
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Cunningham made that kind of save five minutes into the second overtime.
But four minutes later, a Hope player broke free in TMU’s 18-yard box. Cunningham charged and dove at the ball, knocking his opponent to the ground.
The penalty took place inside the box, but the head referee didn’t award a penalty kick. He placed the ball just outside the box to the dismay of Hope players and coaches.
They begged the assistant referee for help. But the officials never huddled up.
The free kick bounced off the crossbar, and the Mustangs cleared the rebound.
“It was a great game. I’m a little disappointed, on our end, as far as the call at the end,” said Royals coach Joe Lurker, whose team is tied for first place in the GSAC at 4-0-1. “On top of that, we had some goal-scoring opportunities to close it out ourselves.”
Cunningham erased most of those.
But the Royals did score twice. Once in the sixth minute to take a 1-0 lead and again in the 70th minute to tie the score, 2-2.
Two times Hope appeared to get away with a hand ball in its box. The second was glaring.
But the Mustangs rebounded to tie the score at one in the 62nd minute when Zach Klindworth set up Lloyd Virgill for a goal. Then TMU took a temporary 2-1 lead in the 64th minute when Klindworth passed ahead to Humphrey Mahowa, who beat two defenders and put the ball in the net.
Klindworth’s quickness gave the Royals fits all afternoon, but especially after halftime. The Royals (10-0-3 overall) had only given up four goals all season entering Wednesday’s game.
“I think we realized that we could break them down on the wing and get some three-man combinations and crosses in,” said Klindworth.
The Mustangs next play Arizona Christian in Phoenix on Saturday.