Portland blanks Oregon State in NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament
The Portland Pilots flipped the flow of play in the second half of Sunday's NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament match at Oregon State and added another happy chapter to a season with a lot of them.
The Pilots scored two second-half goals and played sturdy defense to beat the Beavers 2-0 on Nov. 20 at Paul Lorenz Field in Corvallis. The result avenged a midseason loss to the Beavers, eliminating No. 8 seed Oregon State.
Next for unseeded Portland is a third-round match against unseeded Western Michigan. The Pilots will host that match at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, at Merlo Field.
Ticket sales begin at 11 a.m. Monday.
West Linn native Jacob Babalai broke a scoreless tie in the 78th minute and Muslim Umar capped the win in the 89th minute as the Pilots improved to 14-2-3.
"The second half, I thought we had a dominating performance and put the game back on our terms after the first half was not on our terms," Portland coach Nick Carlin-Voigt said.
After OSU built a 7-1 shots advantage in the first half and denied Portland any real attacking opportunities, Carlin-Voigt asked his team to be more assertive and not allow the Beavers as much time on the ball. Tactically, the Pilots advanced their attacking line and added a player to midfield to make things less comfortable for OSU.
"I think we had confidence and grew into the match, and we had some guys with some good performances," Carlin-Voigt said. "Our pressure was much better in the second half and then we passed and kept the ball much better, as well. So it allowed us to tilt the game more and gain confidence."
The breakthrough goal came on a quick attack up the right wing by Brandon Cambridge after Portland won possession in midfield. Cambridge dribbled with pace up the right flank and drove a low cross into the box. An Oregon State defender mis-hit his clearing attempt at the top of the 6-yard box and Babalai was there the drive the loose ball into the net for his eighth goal of the season.
"Brandon put in a great ball. The defender didn't cleat it, it fell to me and I had the easy part," Babalai said.
He ran joyously to Cambridge in the corner as the other Pilots joined them for the celebration, "Honestly, I was lost for words. I was kind of speechless. I was just so happy," Babalai said.
Portland stayed compact in its defensive third as Oregon State pushed players forward in search of a tying goal.
With time ticking away, Umar tackled the ball from an OSU outside back and charged forward alone before sending his shot into the net for the clinching tally, his fourth goal of the season.
Carlin-Voigt described Umar's impact on the match as huge, particularly the defensive work he did to shut off Oregon State attacks from the right, a place the Beavers were having success early in the game.
"In the first half, I thought the (Beavers) right winger was having a little bit too much fun," Umar said. "The plan for me was just to go in and work hard defensively and give the team a boost."
It was his defensive play that sprung Umar for the clinching goal.
"I saw the guy took a big touch, so I went to press and I scored," Umar said. "It was a good moment to enjoy my teammates."
Portland reaches the third round of the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time, and the first time since 2009.
Sunday's win avenges a 3-2 loss at Oregon State on Oct. 14 that was the first loss of the season for Portland. Sunday's loss was the first since Oct. 2 for the Beavers, who finish 7-4-6.
"Credit to Oregon State," Carlin-Voigt said. "I appreciate how they play and pass and move. And I think they have some good ideas in build-up and they have some really good players. They're a top team and, we knew we would have to earn the result. I think that the second half we were we were first best in every way."
Defender Jake Arteaga, one of the fifth-year Pilots who experienced losses in the second-round of the NCAA Tournament last year and as a freshman in 2018, said avenging the midseason loss to the Beavers added sweetness to an emotional Sunday night.
"The first loss of the season in October, we knew that we had some unfinished business and that wasn't like us," Arteaga said. "And we knew we could play much better. So it was good to put it on display tonight."
Both teams finished with eight shots attempted, but Portland had a 4-1 edge in shots on goal.
Oregon State had more possession in attacking positions in the first half — and a 7-1 advantage in attempted shots at halftime. But the Beavers' closest scoring chance was a deflected shot that hit the crossbar early in the second half.
From that point on, though, it was the Pilots who were the more dangerous side. They were especially effective attacking from the right side with Cambridge and right back Kevin Bonilla able to send dangerous balls to the front of the goal. Oregon State goalkeeper Jesus Sanchez came up big in the 69th minute, blocking a close-range chance for the Pilots' Nick Fernandez.
Western Michigan is 16-2-2 and reached the third round with road wins over Louisville (2-1 in overtime) and No. 9 seed Lipscomb (1-0). The Broncos are in the final 16 for the second time in five years. Western Michigan won the Mid-American Conference title with a 2-1 win at Akron on Nov. 12 to qualify for the NCAAs.
The Pilots are unbeaten at Merlo Field this season (9-0-1).
"Ecstatic to get back to our home crowd and be at Merlo Field for a Sweet 16 match. It's what this team has worked hard for," Carlin-Voigt said. "One game at a time. But we wanted to spend Thanksgiving together and we're gonna be able to do that. We're just so happy."
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