San Diego, California - The Aztec men’s soccer team (2-2-1) had a thrilling come from behind 2-1 victory in extra time over UC Irvine (3-2-1) Sunday evening to win the Courtyard Marriott San Diego Central Aztec Soccer Classic. SDSU gave up a goal in the fourth minute then scored in the 85th and 92nd minute to complete the comeback.
“Obviously we are super excited about winning our own tournament,” Head Coach Lev Kirshner said after the match. “I hate giving the trophy to another team so that makes me very happy. The character of this squad over the weekend was phenomenal. We were down in both games and to come back and find the victories is just a testament to the type of group we have. They are never going to tire and they are never going to quit and that was evidenced by this tournament and we are very proud of the group.”
After a sluggish first half, the Aztecs had the Anteaters on their heels for the final 20 minutes of the second half and were able to score the equalizer in the 85th minute when Pablo Pelaez found Miles Stray for a sliding shot off a free kick from 30 yards out.
The Aztecs wasted no time in extra time, scoring in the 92nd minute when Emil Kjellker finished a Keegan Kelly assist.
The Aztecs entered the weekend without a goal in the second half through their first three matches, but came from behind in both their matches this weekend to win to bring their season record to 2-2-1.
Coach Kirshner on the second half adjustments they made, “We started turning them around. So often in the first half we were just playing in front of them and we never really had them under any type of duress. At halftime we talked about getting second runs in and following up to pick up the loose ones when its necessary and it just got them on the back foot and we found the goal early in the overtime to win it.”
Outside of the early goal they allowed, the Aztecs didn’t allow an Anteater shot in the match’s first 30 minute.
“That’s twice this weekend we’ve had to come from behind. The character of this team to not let something like that bring down their morale and to galvanize and come together to find a way to get the victory is fantastic,” Kirshner praised. “I can’t speak more highly of this group is and what they are doing for each other.”
In a match, that featured over 40 fouls and five yellow cards (four on the Aztecs), the momentum had swung to the Aztecs midway through the second frame. In the 76th minute, the Aztecs nearly converted a Pelaez free kick, but had another opportunity in the 85th minute.
Kicking from 30 yards out on the left wing, Pelaez found defender Miles Stray, a Maryland transfer, for a sliding goal in the 85th minute. It was Stray’s first goal as an Aztec.
The extra period which lasted just under 100 seconds featured three Aztec shots, including the game-winner, which was perfectly executed between Kelly and Kjellker.
Pelaez, who has been involved in five of the Aztecs’ six goals this season, was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Keegan Kelly, Aleks Berkolds, Kjellker and Stray were named to the All-Tournament Team.
The Aztecs will be on the Sports Deck next Friday when they host Brown at 7:00 p.m.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Pablo Pelaez – Assist on the tying goal
“Pablo got the ball in the right spot [on the free kick]. I told him where to put it and he put it there perfectly for the run [for Miles Stray]. He controlled the midfield, controlled the tournament and was the most outstanding player of the tournament.” coach K
STAT OF THE MATCH
The Aztecs were issued four yellow cards: Keegan Kelley, Miles Stray, Emil Kjellker & Hampus Bergdahl.
The Aztecs have won this tournament five times in its 11 year history (2009, ’11, ’14, ’16 & ’18).
QUOTE OF THE MATCH
“It feels good. We started out as a new team and it’s hard to get in a rhythm for the first couple games, but overall the team is building game by game so it feels good to finally get some wins. It is something we deserve with the quality play we’ve had.” Defender Miles Stray
Courtyard Marriott San Diego Central Aztec Soccer Classic All-Tournament Team
Most Outstanding Offensive Player - Pablo Pelaez (SDSU)
Most Outstanding Defensive Player – Huib Achterkamp (LIU Brooklyn)
San Diego State (1st place) – Emil Kjellker, Miles Stray, Keegan Kelly, Aleks Berkolds
LIU Brooklyn (2nd place) - Rasmus Hansen, Erik Johansson, Christoffer Solbakken
UC Irvine (3rd place) – Ivan Canales, Jose Soto
LMU (4th place) - Antonio Porreco, Jack Sauls