Run At Nationals Ends For Men's Soccer In 1-0 Loss To Iowa Western

#5 William Baah
#5 William Baah

AXTON, Va. ---- Juan Velazquez netted the lone goal of the match as the eight-seeded Iowa Western Reivers ended the 12th-seeded Massasoit men's soccer team NJCAA tournament run on Tuesday afternoon.

Velaquez's goal came in the 73rd minute after Warriors tried to clear a ball deep in their own defense zone. After the ball ping ponged around inside the box, it fell right to the foot of Velaquez who blasted home the game-winner.

The loss ends a magical run for the Warriors, which advanced to Nationals for the first time in 20 years. Massasoit finishes the year 13-8 overall and is eliminated from pool play with the loss.

"I think we played well today," Massasoit head coach Rui Estrela said. "We showed we can compete with all these teams here at the Nationals. We were down a few players to injuries after yesterday, and injuries have been nagging us all year. I think we didn't have enough guys coming off the bench to give our starters rest and we weren't able to sustain the energy I wanted to see out there for all 90 minutes.

"One big mistake again, cost us, on clearance in the back. That's the 1-0 game. That's the game of soccer."

Despite playing for the second consecutive day, the Warriors battled tough with the Reivers as the match was scoreless at the half. Even though the game was tied, it was clear Iowa Western was in control, outshooting Massasoit 9-2 in the opening stanza and creating many more scoring chances and possessing the ball throughout the opening 45 minutes of action.

Iowa Western's best chance in the opening half came when Ali Ibraham rifled a shot with Massasoit goalie Wilson Fernandes out of position in the 26th minute. Luckily for the Warriors, sweeper William Baah (Pawtucket, R.I./Shea HS) was there to the rescue, blocking the shot in front of the open net and clearing it away. 

In the second half, though, the Massasoit offense strung together some great scoring opportunities. Unfortunately, for the second straight day, those opportunities were not cashed in on.

Two minutes into the second half, Jose Erazo (Hyannis/Barnstable HS) received a pass from Sidney Cardoso (Portugal) just inside the box. His curving shot went just wide right as the game remained tied. 

At the 52-minute mark, Zac DaCunha (Somerset) rifled a free kick from midfield into the box, that went off the head of Cardoso, but the shot went over the net.

But, the best chance of the game for the Warriors came in the 55th minute. Cardoso and Andrew Revanales (Trinidad/Sharon HS) played a give-and-go pass and it looked as though Massasoit would strike first in the game. The Iowa Western keeper, Josh Blair, left his line and came out and deflected Revanales' shot out of bounds to keep the Warriors off the scoreboard.

In the 67th minute, DaCunha served another free kick into the box, but the header by Revanales went wide. On the play the sophomore striker collided heads with a Reiver defender, forcing him to leave the game. He did not return.

The inability to cash in on the scoring chances finally cost the Warriors when Velazquez blasted home the game winner at the 72:56 mark and ultimately ended the season for Massasoit.

"We struggled as far as finishing during the two games here at Nationals," Estrela said. "We needed to do a better job of finishing. We had chances, which would have really opened up the game in the second half. We were able to create opportunities for ourselves both today and yesterday, we were just not able to finish."

Revanales finished with team-high five shots, three coming on net. The Warriors totaled 11 shots for the game.  

The Reivers tallied 22 total shots, with six coming on frame. 

Massasoit keeper Wilson Fernandes (Cape Verde/Shea HS) made six saves in goal for the Warriors. 

Iowa Western (17-1-4) will face Louisburg to round out pool play on Wednesday. The winner will advance to the semifinals, slated to be played on Friday.

Tuesday's shutout for the Reivers marked their 14th clean sheet of the season and just the fourth time all season Massasoit had been blanked. 

"I'm proud of the guys for their effort both today and all season," Estrela said. "They kept playing hard, even though I know they were tired and played tough. I think we did a great job of proving we can play with anyone in the country. We shouldn't fear anyone."