The Valparaiso University men’s soccer team’s opening act in the Missouri Valley Conference was tough to top, but the Crusaders just may have one-upped themselves in terms of drama with Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win over Drake at Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines, Iowa. Freshman midfielder Jonas Engler (Illingen, Germany / Georg Kerschensteiner Scule) couldn’t have dreamed of a much better situation for his first collegiate goal, floating a shot from 32 yards out that found the near corner of the net for a golden goal late in the second overtime.
Head coach Mike Avery established a new program record with his 77th career victory, and it’s only fitting that the Crusaders (3-2-1, 2-0 MVC) did so in a fashion that has little precedent in the Avery era – overcoming a two-goal hole. This was only the second time since Avery took the helm in 2007 that Valpo rallied from two goals down to come away victorious.
How It Happened
- In the 21st minute of a scoreless match, defender Chavez Brooks-Robinson (Kingston, Jamaica / Wolmer’s Boys School) made an athletic sliding save after the Drake player chipped one past the Valpo goalkeeper that was ticketed for the back of the net. That highlight-reel play kept the match scoreless.
- The Bulldogs (1-6) built an early edge as Leroy Enzugusi took a deflected Valpo corner and went the length of the field for an unassisted goal in the 26th minute.
- Nic Jaimes doubled that advantage in the 34th minute, scoring his first goal of the season on an Antonio Sanchez through ball that was redirected by Ryan Merideth to Jaimes at the far post.
- Junior Rafael Mentzingen (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil / Bryan) floated a header from the top far corner of the box in the 53rd minute that lofted above the Drake keeper to slice the deficit in half. A near-side cross from senior Ramone Howell (Portmore, Jamaica / Jamaica College) set up the goal.
- Less than five minutes later, Jordan James (Hellshire, Jamaica / Wolmer’s Boys School) equalized after Adan Garcia (Dallas, Texas / Episcopal School of Dallas) booted it ahead from midfield for the assist. James collected it from 35 yards out and chipped it over the keeper’s head.
- Neither team scored the remainder of regulation, setting up Engler’s overtime heroics.
- Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Nacho Miras (Ubeda Spain / Nuestra Semora del Pilar) played a key role – as he has in every Valpo win so far this season. Miras finished with seven saves as he boosted his record to 3-1-1.
Inside the Match
- With the win, Valpo stays atop the table – climbing to 2-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference. This marks the first 2-0 start to conference play for the Crusaders since 1997.
- The last time Valpo overcame a two-goal deficit was Oct. 10, 2014, when the Crusaders trailed Wright State 2-0, then rallied for five unanswered goals in the second half to win 5-2. That was the only two-goal comeback of the Avery era before Saturday. Prior to 2014, Valpo hadn’t won after trailing by two goals since Sept. 27, 2006, a 5-4 win over Evansville.
- The Crusaders picked up their first overtime victory since Sept. 28, 2015, a 1-0 win over No. 23 Omaha at Brown Field.
- Avery moved into sole possession of the program record for career wins, climbing over Mis’ Mrak, who won 76 matches during his tenure, which spanned from 1991-2006.
- James’ goal was his second of the season and bolstered his season total to five points. This marked the fourth goal of James’ Crusader career. He became the second Crusader with multiple goals on the season.
- Mentzingen’s tally moved him back into sole possession of the team lead with three goals and leaped him back ahead of James for the team lead in points with six.
- Garcia’s assist was his first of the year and lifted his season total to three points. It marked the second assists of Garcia’s career and his first since Oct. 31, 2016 against IUPUI.
- Howell’s helper was his first of the season and the sixth of his career.
- Engler’s match-winner was his first career goal, while Chris Villalobos (Richardson, Texas / J.J. Pearce) provided his first assist of the season and the second of his career. The sophomore’s previous assist came on Sept. 27, 2016 at Eastern Illinois.
- The final statistics reflect the evenly-matched nature of the fixture, as the Crusaders were narrowly outshot 16-12 overall and 10-8 on shots on goal.
- Miras has already made 31 saves in just five appearances this season.
Thoughts from Head Coach Mike Avery
“I’m very proud of our guys tonight. I’d be surprised if any team in the country has been on the road as long as we have, and the wear and tear of that really showed tonight. We were a step off for the entire first half, and Drake played very well. We were deservedly behind by two goals, and I really challenged the group at halftime to see if we could lift ourselves out of a deep hole. That was a response filled with a lot of character.”
“We are dragging a bit right now, but also very excited to play at home Monday night. We will need to rely on our depth, and I know a few guys are ready to step up and embrace the opportunity to play.”
The Crusaders will finally get their first taste of playing on their home pitch this season on Monday as they host Fort Wayne. The match between the Crusaders and Mastodons gets started at 6 p.m. Central Time and can be heard on WVUR, 95.1 FM Valparaiso. Links to live audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.