San Jose, Calif. - With five seconds left in regulation, senior midfielder Diego Ochoa took a corner kick and bent it just inside the far post to propel the San Jose State men's soccer team to a 1-0 win over Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) foe CSU Bakersfield on Friday night in Spartan Stadium.
"I meant to hit the far post," Ochoa said. "I don't know if there was a little bit of wind or just some luck, but it went right over the keeper and in."
The final sequence was set up when an Enrique Montano shot on goal was parried away by CSUB keeper Eric Shannon with barely 30 seconds left. As the Spartans (6-4-1, 3-0-1 MPSF) set up for the set piece, time was running down. With the clock inside 10 seconds, Ochoa bent his attempt into the box and scored his first goal of the season.
"What can you say about the finish?" head coach Gary St. Clair said. "One of the things we've talked about all season long is putting ourselves in a position to win games. Tonight we played great against a very strong team. I'm really happy our boys got rewarded for their effort.
"One of the things we talked about at halftime was 'let's get a ball to the back post.' They were pushing on the near post and their keeper was cheating on the near post a little bit. Diego hits the perfect ball and that's it."
For the match, the Roadrunners (5-3-4, 2-2-0 MPSF) out shot the Spartans 15-to-11, but San Jose State put six shots on goal to CSUB's four.
Emmanuel Espinosa, a redshirt-freshman keeper making his second consecutive start, earned his first clean sheet and improved his record to 2-0-0.
"Coming into this season we knew one of the most important roles for us were going to be our goalkeepers," St. Clair said. "Between (Manny) and Michael (Schwinn) we've had tremendous goal keeping. Manny has played big time in the last two games. I have no clue what I am going to do on Sunday (against UNLV). It's a very good problem for us to have. You shutout a team like Bakersfield and you are doing something right."
The Spartans kept Bakersfield's Gaysi Zardes, the MPSF's second leading scorer and last season's conference Player of the Year, off the scoreboard...just barely.
In the 73rd minute Zardes, who led all players with seven shots, drove down the right side. From the close right wing he hammered a shot that hit the bottom of the crossbar. It shot straight down and bounded away from the goal to the far sideline. It would turn out to the CSUB's best scoring opportunity of the night.
"Zardes is a very good player," St. Clair said, "and Nick (Murphy) is a very good player. Nick (a senior defender who shadowed Zardes all over the field) has now played him twice in a week. He has probably done as good a job on him as I have seen, but it wasn't just Nick. He was getting back side help from Diego (Ochoa) and Enrique (Montano) all night long. We were patient with (Zardes) all night and that is a difficult thing to do at this level. You can't step into him and we did a good job of sticking to our plan."
The Spartans have defeated CSU Bakersfield, ranked No. 9 in the Far West region of the NSCAA/Continental Tires Poll, twice in as many weeks. They defeated the 'Runners 2-1 in Bakersfield last week and have not been beaten in MPSF play this year.
"For us, this is the biggest win we've had so for," Ochoa said. "We're in first place and we're going to try to keep this momentum going, but without getting to far ahead of ourselves. We have a tough team on Sunday (UNLV)."
Montano and Steven Sanchez led the Spartans attack with three shots a piece. They put two and one shots, respectively, on frame. Ochoa had two shots and Ryan Thomas, Jonathan Salceda and Garret Foster each took one shot.
The is the best start in conference play for San Jose State since the 2009 team opened MPSF play with five straight wins. The team is 5-1-1 in their last seven matches.
The Spartans next game is Sunday, October 14 when they host MPSF foe the UNLV Rebels in Spartans Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:00 p.m.xxxxx