The University of Denver men’s soccer narrowly juggled a 2-1 overtime win against New Mexico.
On Oct. 19 at the University of Denver, the crowd suffered through a defensive, scoreless first half at the University of Denver only to be rewarded by a powder keg combustion of both teams through overtime.
Despite wearing their generic, white home jerseys, Denver’s first goal was a colorful one. Kenny Akamatsu, who was fast all night, stormed past his man on the far right side, beating him to the corner and crossing the ball to a guarded Shinyashiki who heeled it back to the 18 yard box. There, teammate Karsten Hanlin took a touch and knuckled an out-step into the far right netting.
“He knew he was going to score,” coach Franks said of Hanlin, “sometimes I can’t tell, but I knew for that one.”
As the thrashing goal net settled, so did the crowd. Number five ranked Denver had finally achieved their comfort zone over un-ranked New Mexico.
With their goal, Denver found Solidarity as they trenched their team in their own half, battling to maintain the lead.
But as their mentality shifted towards defense, their offence suffered. Denver only took three shots in the second half, in contrast to New Mexico’s six.
Finally, in the 89th minute, New Mexico’s driving efforts were rewarded. At first, it looked like every other attempt they had in the game, a low odds shot forced outside the box. But as it entered the tangled mess of players condensed in front of the goal, it was deflected into a small area of uncontested space where, an opportunistic Rochowski slid and knocked it into the right side of the goal.
WAt first, no one, fans and players seemed to acknowledge the goal. There was virtually one minute left in the game, fans had decided to begin packing up their children, folding up blankets and zipping up hoodies. Yet New Mexico had more to say.
“Up to that point I think we were on our heels, we had done just enough to keep them out, but you could just feel it pushing in their direction,” said Jared Cochran of the team prior to the goal.
The teems met at their benches briefly, you could hear Jeremy Fishbein yelling at his New Mexico bench, pushing them into the 30 minutes of overtime.
Yet, the Denver bench had a different tone.
“We were a bit stressed but without doubt,” said Franks, “this was just another game in our undefeated season.”
The first half of overtime was defined by solid team defense. Most of the half was played at the middle third of the field. Each team’s midfielders and attackmen made sprinting attempts at their opponent’s goals, playing technical short passes only to be shopped by opposing defenders.
The second half of overtime had a much different feel, like each teams final tug on the rope, trying to pull the game in their direction.
New Mexico had the first tug, forcing keeper Nick Gardner to make his only save all game. A late sub for, Luke Lawrence used his fresh legs to double cut a defender in the box and fire a shot at the near right post. Gardner didn’t have time to think, he instinctively dove from the center of the goal out and through the ball, shoving aside what would be New Mexico’s last attempt on goal.
Finally, with less than a minute to go in overtime, on what was surely their last play at goal, Denver had a corner kick.
Hanlin took it from the left side, as he had done twice before that game. It was a high lofted ball that landed on the head of a New Mexico player where it was deflected onto the forehead of Shinyashiki and off the crossbar where it penetrated the narrowest of margins between the goalies hands and into the goal.
Those who stayed for the game made up for those who didn’t with their shouts of relief and elation. Parents, forced to stay longer for the sake of their super-engaged children shot up and danced with their little, family fans.
D.U. was going to stay undefeated through two regular seasons. And although a tie would not have tarnished their 12-0-2 season, a victory seemed more pronounce.
“All the tension had built up to that point,” said Cochran “a tie was starting to feel like a loss given how much work we put in that game, I think both teams felt that way.”
The team, bench and coaching staff united gathered near their bench to congratulate each-other and eventually shake hands with their opponents. Soon they were marching to the locker room to de-boot and decompress.
This is coach Jamie Franks second season with Denver and so far he has not lost a match with the lads.
They have one more match coming up that could secure their first place spot in the Summit league and surely allow them to have at least two home games in the upcoming NCAA tournament.