ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — University of Denver men’s soccer junior forward Cole Chapleski (Broomfield, Colo.) netted a 20-yard strike to send a shorthanded Pioneers’ side to a 2-1 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Quarterfinal victory over San Jose State on Thursday night at UNM Soccer Complex. The win was head coach Bobby Muuss’ 50th-career victory.
“We’re extremely proud to get the result and move on to play in the semifinal,” Muuss said. “I was a little disappointed with the way we played overall tonight, but in conference play, the result is everything. The guys showed a great deal of character after going down a man with seven minutes to play. They went into overtime believing in themselves, and they were able to persevere and find a way to get a goal. We continued to play our game, even when we went down a man. I’m extremely proud of the group tonight.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Oliver Brown (Louisville, Ky.) was the storyline throughout the night, denying Thomas Barnes a 16th-minute breakthrough on a close-range header, the first real scoring chance for either team. Barnes header was pushed wide by Brown for a corner that the Denver backline would eventually clear to midfield to keep the match level early on.
The Pioneers (11-5-3) got on the board on senior forward Josh Wren’s (Tulsa, Okla.) eighth goal of the season, off an assist from junior forward Zach Bolden (Denver, Colo.). Chapleski started the scoring chance, playing a ball into Bolden, who flicked it with his head to the feet of Wren. Denver’s leading goal scorer had his first shot saved, but Wren got on the end of it again, and this time found the back of the net. Bolden’s assist was his 10th of the season.
SJSU (8-8-1) got an equalizer after the intermission on Jonathan Salceda’s eighth of the season. Steven Sanchez played a cross from the left flank to the far post to start the Spartans’ first scoring chance of the second half. Salceda chested down the Sanchez cross, and then blasted a half-volley by Brown to even things up at one.
Brown was called upon again to make a clutch save in the 75th minute, as Sanchez got behind the Pioneers’ backline, creating a 1v1 with the keeper down the left side. Brown pushed the resulting 15-yard strike wide of the far post and out for a corner to keep the match on level terms, and ultimately send it to extra time.
Senior defender Blake Shannon (Houston, Texas) was shown a straight red card from referee Daniel Radford in the 84th minute for a challenge in Denver’s attacking third, giving the Spartans a man advantage for the remainder of the match.
In a situation where some teams may have been content with taking their chances in penalty kicks after going a man down so late in the match, Denver turned up the intensity and turned defense into dangerous counter-attacking situations more than once in the final eight minutes of the match.
Sophomore midfielder Taylor Hunter (Aurora, Colo.) played a role in one of those counter attacks, assisting Chapleski’s 92nd-minute game-winner. Hunter made a run into the box all the way from the Denver backline, before laying it off for Chapleski. The Pioneer junior fired the ball off his right foot from 20-yards out into the bottom right corner for the game winner. Chapleski’s goal was his third of the season, and his third against the Spartans in two matches this season.
The Spartans held a 15-11 shot advantage in the match and a 5-4 edge in corners. Brown made five saves in the match.
Denver will take on host, and top-seed New Mexico in tomorrow’s MPSF Semifinals. The match is scheduled to kickoff at 7:30 p.m. MT.
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