Early goals lead Aztecs to 2-1 victory over UNLV


File photo

Then-junior midfielder Pablo Pelaez lines up for a kick during the Aztecs 2-1 victory over UNLV on Sept. 24, 2018 at the SDSU Sports Deck.

by Daniel Guerrero, Staff Writer

San Diego State men’s soccer escaped with a 2-1 win against University of Nevada, Las Vegas on Monday night at the SDSU Sports Deck.

SDSU (4-2-1) jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, and hung on for its fourth straight victory after a late goal and second half resurgence by UNLV (5-5).

Head coach Lev Kirshner said his team played well throughout the contest, and showed lots of energy.

“There’s many ways to win games,” Kirshner said. “We started out very bright (with) a lot of energy, a lot of good ball movement, executing a lot of the things we’ve been training.”

The Aztecs opened the scoring in the first minute after junior midfielder Pablo Pelaez scored his fourth goal of the season off of a penalty kick.

Four minutes later, freshman midfielder Laukoa Santos added to SDSU’s lead with a 25-yard goal off an assist by junior midfielder Keegan Kelly.

The goal was Santos first as an Aztec, and is something he said he’s worked towards.

“It felt amazing,” Santos said. “All the hard work and dedication into that one moment… I loved every second of it and hopefully there’s more to come.”

The two goals kept the Aztecs in control of the game for much of the first half, as they outshot UNLV 7-0 by the 22nd minute.

Junior defender Aleks Berkolds said the high intensity aided the Aztecs early dominance against the Rebels.

“I think we came out with the right intensity and we kind of overwhelmed them,” Berkolds said. “They couldn’t really start off and get anything on us.”

In the 35th minute both teams physical play led to an on the field altercation, during which the teams needed to be separated after both sides began to push and shove.

Following the separation, UNLV’s freshman forward John Lynam was sent off with a red card and SDSU’s senior forward Damian German was given a yellow.

Kirshner said he had to remind his team to stay disciplined.  

“It was a situation that we didn’t want this to get into. An emotional game and kind of a street fight,” Kirshner said. “We talked about keeping and maintaining our heads and getting back to the things we were doing in the first 20 minutes.”

UNLV’s resurgence came with 10 minutes remaining in the first half, when the Rebels got off three of their four shots and had two corner opportunities.

Kirshner said the Rebels’ ability to create offense forced SDSU to make adjustments during the halftime break.

“UNLV changed the game around with 10 minutes to go in the first half,” Kirshner said. “We went back in (at halftime) and we just said we had too many gaps between our backs and our midfield.”

For the Rebels, the halftime break didn’t stop their momentum as they got off four shots by the 62nd minute.

UNLV eventually broke through the Aztecs defense in the 76th minute, when sophomore forward Marco Gonzalez scored his seventh goal of the season.

The Rebels continued the threat with another shot on goal, along with two corner kicks.

UNLV appeared to tie the game after a cross into the penalty area rolled into the goal after it was mishandled by Aztec senior goalkeeper Cameron Hoagg,  but the potential equalizer was negated after the Rebels were flagged for being offside.

Following the game saving offside penalty, the Aztecs slowed the Rebels’ offense to close out the game.

“At the end of the day a win is a win,” Kirshner said. “We’re very happy with that.”

Junior defender Aleks Berkolds said the streak has the team excited and ready for the Pac-12 schedule.

“We’re ready… we’re going to come out with the right fire and show the Pac-12 what we can do,” Berkolds said.

SDSU opens up their Pac-12 schedule on the road against Stanford University on Sept. 27.