Defense, clutch goals carry Mesa to key RMAC win
They made the turn at the midway point of the RMAC season all alone in first place, and the Colorado Mesa men’s soccer team played its best game of the season Friday night in a 2-0 victory over Colorado School of Mines.
And, as their coach, Todd Padgett, told the Mavericks afterwards, they haven’t done anything yet.
Coupled with Regis’ 4-3 loss to CU-Colorado Springs and two crackerjack goals, the Mavericks (7-1-3, 6-0-1 RMAC) moved one game up on the field with seven games to play.
Defender Roberto Diaz, who helped throw a wall up along the back line all night long and turned the ball toward CMU’s goal time after time, found himself in the right spot on a free kick in the first half.
“Berto, when he plays, if he’s not the best player in the program, he’s one of them,” Padgett said. “His athleticism and his speed, coupled with his technical ability is just rare.
“I truly believe that’s a young man who’s been a little bit of a secret to the rest of the conference, but I don’t think any more. He was nothing short of brilliant, and to get the first goal was big for a defender.”
After a foul on Mines (5-4-2, 4-2-1), Luis Schraidt took a free kick on the left side and sent it toward the scrum in front of the net. Everyone went up, but Diaz found the ball and headed it in for his first goal of the season and a 1-0 lead only 21 seconds before halftime.
“James (Mcghee) missed the ball and I just saw it and headed it,” Diaz said. “It was exciting.”
The Mavericks’ insurance goal was a thing of beauty, with Kevin Del Mazo sending a through ball to Roy Abergil. He took the ball down the middle of the box and deftly slipped it to his right, where Moshe Perez one-timed it into the net at the 83:24 mark, setting off a dog pile celebration on the sideline.
“What an individual play by Roy to create Moshe’s chance,” Padgett said. “That’s what Roy has now in his bag of tricks, is he looks to set up teammates. That was the right decision, Moshe ended up having the tap-in and a 2-0 lead.”
Mesa’s defense controlled the game from the start, blocking shots and keeping the Mavericks on the attack.
“That’s what we focus on, no goals allowed in the game and play really good defense,” Diaz said. “That’s what’s going to make us win championships, defense.”
The Orediggers threw a lot of high balls and headers at Briley Guarneri, who made three saves, including one in the first half when he watched one header bounce to a Mines player, then timed his jump perfectly on the second header attempt, snatching it out of the air.
“When it goes floating up in the air I’m always going to win it,” said Guarneri, who got plenty of high balls sent his way during practice.
“I got very comfortable with when I wanted to go and when I didn’t. If the ball went in the air and floated, I was going to get it. If it was more driven, then I’d have to make a decision.”
He made that decision for his final save, on a long line drive by Ryan Blarr with about seven minutes left.
“That one was tough, it was a line drive from 35, 40 yards out. I was going to make the decision to punch the ball, but no one on their team ran across me like I was expecting, so I made that last-second decision to go ahead and catch,” said the sophomore, who recorded his seventh win of the season, six by shutout. “I trusted my hands, they’ve been very clean this week and very clean in the game.”