By Jeremy Balan
Momentum can work in mysterious ways, but for the Mission and University boys soccer teams, the harsh swings of their non-league matchup on Tuesday at Kezar Stadium still resulted in a scoreless tie.
In a match that had the intensity of a playoff game, the Red Devils (2-1-1) had the latest surge, amping up offensive pressure in the final 20 minutes.
As he did the entire night, though, Mission senior goalkeeper Marcos Lopez stopped the Red Devils cold.
Lopez had three saves in the final 20 minutes and six overall, including a stop on a penalty kick in the 22nd minute.
After University freshman Patrick Dowd was fouled on a run near the left-hand corner of the penalty area, junior Wyatt Kim sent the penalty shot to the low, left-hand corner of the net.
Lopez guessed correctly, dove to his right and just tipped the ball off the post and away from the net.
The 5-foot-8 senior also intercepted several passes and twice slid in to stop University attackers on one-on-one scoring opportunities.
“He played out of his head,” said Mission head coach Scott Kennedy. “He played really well and was definitely complete. What’s great about him is that he’s becoming a leader. He’s becoming more vocal and positive. He’s stepping into it.”
Lopez’s save immediately shifted the momentum of the game into the Bears’ (3-1-1) favor, and Mission controlled the rest of the first half and the first portion of the second.
“It absolutely shifted the momentum,” said University head coach Deejae Johnson. “After that, we were dead for 20 minutes. We didn’t play again for the rest of the half.”
But Mission still couldn’t capitalize with the momentum on its side.
Despite dominating the midfield and cutting down any attempt the Red Devils made to get into the attacking half with quick and sure-tackling defenders, the Bears’ attack couldn’t break through.
Although he lacked the dramatic flair of Lopez’s performance, University sophomore goalkeeper Alexander Ederer made four saves to keep the game scoreless.
“It was a push,” Kennedy said. “We had our opportunities, but man, did they have theirs too. That was a race. That was a dogfight.”
University’s best opportunities came from distance, with several shots from 25 to 35 yards out that just missed the net.
One, a high-arcing shot from 30 yards out by University freshman Jeremy Strange, was tipped off the crossbar and away from the net by Lopez, but another caught the goalkeeper in a vulnerable position.
On an increasingly-slick field due to a heavy fog rolling into the stadium, Lopez slipped on a shot by University junior Sam Reyes from 20 yards out. With the right side of the net open for attack, Reyes’ shot slid just wide of the post.
“[Lopez] was very active, but he slipped on that one and if it was on frame, that’s a goal,” Johnson said. “If he’s that active, they’re prone to make a mistake, but he cleaned everything up really well.”