By Dave Wagner, Freedom Newspapers
Three times this season, the Eastern New Mexico University men’s soccer team has seen leads well into the second half turn into losses.
On Wednesday, the Greyhounds staved off another potential disaster when what would have been the tying goal by St. Mary’s junior forward Raul Davila was disallowed due to offsides with 17 seconds left, preserving the Hounds’ 1-0 victory over the Rattlers at the ENMU pitch.
Junior goalkeeper Leif Craddock recorded his third shutout this fall, breaking his school mark of two set last year. The shutouts are the only wins of the season for ENMU (3-8-1).
“It feels good,” said Craddock, who recorded four saves. “Shutouts are always good for me and the team.”
Still, the Hounds had to survive a wild final 30 seconds after a foul in the box gave the Rattlers (2-6-2) a free kick. ENMU’s wall deflected Byron Plagge’s attempt, but St. Mary’s recovered to nearly force overtime anyway.
“I thought for sure we were out of trouble when we blocked (the free kick), but our guys have to focus,” Craddock said. “We’ve just got to make sure we don’t commit fouls in the box like that, but luckily everything worked out.”
The Hounds broke through with about 18 1/2 minutes left when junior Donnell Jackson found senior Keith Vargas in front of the Rattlers’ net. Vargas settled the ball, and punched it in past goalkeeper Brett Collier for his second tally of the season.
St. Mary’s had several chances, including one flurry in the first half in front of the ENMU goal when defenders deflected away two attempts before they reached Craddock.
“We had our chances,” said Rattlers coach Que Willis, who was unhappy with the 40 fouls called in the match and was given a yellow card afterward when he complained to officials. “We had a lot of chances to get ahead and put (the match) away, but we didn’t take advantage of them.
“I was disappointed with the fouls. I felt like the referee stopped the game every chance he got in the second half.”
ENMU coach Carlos Elizondo said the win was important for his squad, which had lost four in a row and eight of its past nine outings. Still, he was concerned about the breakdown at the end.
“I’m trying to instill in the boys that every second counts,” he said. “We’ve got to play the whole 90 minutes. I was going to cry if (Davila’s) goal counted, but I think this was a turning point for us.
“Things are coming full circle, I think. They had some chances on us, but we grinded it out. The guys had a good game.”