By Daniel Tapia and Christian Ulrich, Sept. 13, 2022
On Sept. 7, Cal Poly Pomona hosted Azusa Pacific University in a non-conference matchup between two top-20 teams. The Broncos defeated the Cougars 3-0, moving their overall record to 4-0-1.
The Broncos’ defense was dominant yet again as they held their opponent scoreless, making this their fourth clean sheet in five games. Head coach Matt O’Sullivan praised the team’s defensive performance.
“Azusa is a fantastic team, so a big part for us is that we wanted to defend well and got that tonight,” said O’Sullivan. “We knew Azusa would fight back, but we did a good job of not letting them back in. We are proud of our defending and how we played as a group.”
Aside from the tremendous defending, the Broncos were constantly on the Cougars’ side of the field, accounting for 19 total shots. Their first threat came three minutes into the game when forward Kevin Hernandez delivered a through ball to midfielder Harrison Cliff, giving him a shot at goal. While Cliff obliged that invitation to fire, the goalkeeper made the save.
Opportunities for the Broncos came from two corner kicks and five shots within the first twenty minutes. While unable to capitalize on these attempts at goal, the team continued executing coach O’Sullivan’s aggressive strategy.
Despite the Broncos’ preceding chances falling short, the 22nd minute broke the early scoreless tie. Midfielder Woody Angell pounced on the Cougars’ defensive mishap by intercepting the Cougar goalie’s pass. Angell controlled and dished it off to Hernandez who made his move and buried the shot into the bottom left corner of the net, giving the Broncos a 1-0 lead.
“We saw that coming. We’ve scouted them throughout the week and seen them mess up with that same play,” said Hernandez. “Once Woody got the ball, I was hungry because their guy wasn’t paying attention, and we got them.”
The Broncos’ strong first half continued in the 29th minute when midfielder Mads Frederiksen found himself with nothing but green grass and APU’s goalie to beat. Unfortunately for Frederiksen, a Cougar defender shut down the midfielder’s chance by tripping Frederiksen from behind.
Frederiksen’s efforts were not in vain as the defensive challenge resulted in a foul and subsequent penalty kick. Midfielder Mike Moser attempted to convert, but his shot hit off the right post. Midfielder Max Laguna saw the loose ball and proceeded to score off the rebound, giving the Broncos a 2-0 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Cougars did not go down without a fight as they put pressure on the Broncos’ defense. Previous matchups against APU showed Cougar resiliency, but coach O’Sullivan and his roster proved up to the task.
“At 2-0, Azusa started coming back into it, and we knew that was going to happen,” said O’Sullivan. “They’re a very good team. Last year we played really well against them but let them back in. This year we didn’t.”
With only one shot attempt through the first 20 minutes of the second half, the Broncos didn’t need many opportunities to find their third goal.
After winning a throw in the 68th minute, midfielder Melvyn Perez Cortez prepared to send the ball into the box from the right side of the pitch. Cortez lobbed a perfect ball into the box, finding midfielder Mikey Sedano who went for the header and scored the third and final goal for CPP.
Knowing they had to pick up the pace to come back, the Cougars found themselves on CPP’s side of the pitch in the latter half. However, thanks to a stingy Broncos defense and stellar performance from goalkeeper CJ Walker, the aggressive Cougars failed to generate a scoring chance.
As for Walker, he tallied four saves but has been rock-solid all season, having yet to allow a single goal in the four games he has started.
“Last season, we conceded a few too many goals, so in the offseason, all we worked on was defending, and we’ve been super solid so far,” said Walker. “Credit the defense — we haven’t let that many shots off, and they’re not able to get through, but the times they are getting through I’m doing well with it.”
The Broncos will look to extend their win streak Saturday, Sept. 17, as they open California College Athletic Association play with a road matchup against Cal State L.A. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., and the game can be livestreamed via the BroncoAthletic website and the CCAA Network.
Feature Image by Christian Ulrich.
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