For a moment Thursday afternoon, The Master’s University men’s soccer team looked to be in the driver’s seat for an upset over No. 16 Vanguard.
A late first-half goal from Valencia alum Justin Ikeora was parlayed with a goal early in the second half from Saugus alum Trevor Mangan to put the No. 24 Mustangs up by a goal with a slew of momentum.
Vanguard went on to flash its offensive might, though, scoring three unanswered goals — one coming off a penalty kick and another off a free kick — to hold off the upset with a 4-2 victory.
“I thought we were doing enough to give ourselves quality chances but our main goal was just defending them,” said Mustangs coach Jim Rickard. “They’re really deep and the subs they bring in could start in most places, so they’re really prolific with their touches.”
Mustangs goalkeeper Casey Phillips did a fine job in defense of the Lions with three first-half saves mixed around a goal at the 28:44 mark. But Phillips found himself on the wrong side of a collision in the penalty box with just under 34 minutes to play, resulting in a Vanguard penalty kick with the game tied 2-2.
Lions goalkeeper Brandon Gomez sent a missile past Phillips’ right side for the go-ahead score.
“The thing is, with the keeper, it doesn’t matter if he crashes into people as long as he has his hands on (the ball),” Rickard said. “The ref must’ve felt the ball was right there for their guy and our keeper took him out needlessly.”
A beautifully placed cross set up Brian Torres for a tap-in goal from six yards out to seal the Lions win with 11 minutes to play.
The Mustangs (8-3-2, 3-2 Golden State Athletic Conference) had just one shot on goal in the first half and Ikeora made the most of it with a breakaway goal, his first of the season, with less than a minute to play in the first half. Benjamin Tembo was credited with the assist.
“It was kind of nice to get that weight off my shoulders,” said Ikeora of his first goal. “I was hoping their center backs would have a mistouch and that’s what happened, and we just ran with it.”
Tembo logged his second assist when he found Mangan on a two-on-one, as Mangan sent a grounder past Gomez’s left side to put the team up 2-1. The Lions tied it on a 40-yard free-kick from Sebastian Cortez before taking the lead.
Vanguard ended with 11 shots on goal compared to six for the Mustangs, who were unable to capitalize on two penalty kicks late in the second half.
“We knew it was going to be a top-caliber team,” Mangan said. “It just came down to holding that lead and we couldn’t do that.”
TMU dropped to fifth in the Golden State Athletic Conference standings with the loss while Vanguard (10-2, 5-0) remains in first. The Mustangs next host Hope International at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Notes — Rankings reflect latest NAIA Men’s Soccer Coaches’ Top 25 poll, updated on Oct. 3