San Jose, Calif. - Justin Castro's free-kick goal into the upper left corner with just 37 seconds remaining in the second and final 10-minute overtime period gave San Jose State University a dramatic 1-0 win over the University of Denver in the 2009 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation men's soccer opener for both teams at Spartan Stadium on Friday night, October 16.
With a fourth straight victory, San Jose State evens its overall record at 6-6-1 while improving to 1-0 in the MPSF. The Spartans are on a five-match unbeaten streak, going 4-0-1 over that stretch with four clean sheets, and are an undefeated 4-0-1 on the new FieldTurf inside Spartan Stadium in 2009. They have gone nine consecutive matches in all without a loss in San Jose, now 8-0-1 at home since a tough 3-2 overtime loss to Denver almost exactly one year ago to the day, on October 17, 2008.
Denver, which won its first MPSF crown a year ago to earn the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Championship, drops to 3-6-2 and 0-1 in league play following a fourth straight loss.
No current San Jose State player had previously been on the field for a defeat of the Pioneers. Fifth-year members Brian McGuire and co-captain Oscar Monjaras redshirted the 2005 season as true freshmen, when the Spartans last beat Denver, sweeping the two matches. DU had gone 5-0-1 against San Jose State in the three years since then. The league rivals have needed more than the 90 minutes of allotted regulation time to decide each of their last five meetings.
Castro, out of Archbishop Mitty High School, lined up with fellow San Jose native and third-year Spartan, Ricky Dorrego (Lincoln HS), to take the decisive free kick after Colby Moore had been taken down just beyond the left edge of the Pioneer penalty area going for a long ball by junior Josh Boemecke, with the final seconds ticking away and the match headed toward a scoreless draw. The redshirt sophomore ultimately took ownership of the kick, and bent it toward the upper corner on the near side with his right foot. Denver's junior goalkeeper, Joe Willis, got a hand to it, but was unable to keep the ball out of the back of the net for the sudden-victory score at 109:23, as Castro's fourth goal of 2009, his second of the game-winning variety, created a euphoric post-game scene.
The match had been an almost-peculiarly-amicable conference affair throughout much of the night, without even reaching double digits in combined fouls until the first extra session. The lone caution of the contest also was produced after regulation play had been exhausted.
Sophomore goalkeeper Jonathan Lester made four saves in the Spartan net for his fifth individual shutout of the 2009 campaign.
San Jose State out-shot Denver on the evening, 22-13, with senior standout Nick Cukar providing a team-high four efforts in 97 minutes, having earned his 50th consecutive starting assignment since the 2007 opener. He played both on the left side of midfield, and also as a striker for the late stages of the second half.
Fellow fourth-year senior Moore, out of Los Gatos, Calif., and San Jose's Bellarmine College Prep, was a force all night in terms of work rate and distribution, covering a lot of ground and turning provider for some of the Spartans' best chances to score from his striker position, before ultimately generating the foul that led to the winner.
The Spartans welcomed Monjaras back to his starting role in central defense following a one-game absence due to injury. All four members of San Jose State's back line in front of Lester, the group consisting of Monjaras, redshirt sophomore Dan Addiego and freshmen Mauricio Murillo, Jr., and Nick Murphy, played all 109:23, as did holding central midfielders Boemecke and McGuire, in aiding in the latest Spartan clean sheet.
Junior midfielder Jesse Henderson took a game-high six shots for Denver, with two of them on goal. Teale Stone, himself a junior, made his 2009 debut as the Pioneers' starting goalkeeper, and had a pair of stops during the first half before giving way to Willis, who collected two saves of his own over 64:23 leading up to the Castro strike.
Arguably the best scoring opportunity on the night prior to the decider, came off the foot of Dorrego off a steal inside the Pioneer box in just the third minute of the match, but his shot was inches wide of the right post. Just over six minutes later, Dorrego's free kick from the right was headed narrowly high of the crossbar by Addiego.
In the 15th minute, Moore connected with a streaking Dorrego in stride down the right flank, with the latter player finding Castro on toward goal in the center of the pitch. The ball popped up just nicely for Castro to put a running header onto it, only for Stone to slap it away for a corner.
The Spartans continued to be the offensive aggressor throughout much of the evening. In the 58th minute, Addiego's pass found Moore for a shot which was saved by Willis.
Perhaps the best chance for Denver to dent the scoreboard came a mere 37 seconds into the first overtime, as Lester had to dive all-out to his right to parry away a header by Kris Banghart off a free kick by fellow senior co-captain Collin Audley.
The Spartans conclude a season-long three-game homestand this Sunday afternoon, October 18, hosting Air Force in another key MPSF match-up. Kick-off inside Spartan Stadium is set for 1:00 p.m. Live audio coverage, free of charge, will be provided at SJSUSpartans.com.
Denver (3-6-2, 0-1 MPSF) - 0 0 0 0 - 0
San Jose State (6-6-1, 1-0 MPSF) - 0 0 0 1 - 1
SJSU - Justin Castro (4) (unassisted), 109:23
DEN - 13
SJSU - 22
DEN - 4 (Teale Stone-2; Joe Willis-2)
SJSU - 4 (Jonathan Lester-4)
DEN - 6
SJSU - 7
DEN - 7
SJSU - 5