The BYU men’s soccer team returned from its final road trip of the season Sunday morning with a win and a loss, as the team traveled to Southern California to play the Ventura County Fusion and the Los Angeles Legends.
Friday night, BYU suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to the top-ranked Fusion. Less than 24 hours later, the Cougars beat the Legends 1-0.
Once again, the Cougars held the defending division champion Fusion to a close game but couldn’t come up with the win. BYU has never beaten Ventura County in all six games that have been played between the two teams. The Fusion remain undefeated on the season and have a lot of momentum as it nears the playoffs.
“We clearly played well tonight,” BYU coach Chris Watkins said in a news release after the loss. “They had one great shot and we didn’t.”
The game was scoreless for the first 86 minutes before Ventura County forward Gyasi Zardes scored the only goal of the night.
“The game against Ventura County was one of our best,” sophomore defender Junior Lartey said. “We played our game and had chances to win it. They hit a 88th minute miracle shot and won the game.”
This is the second time this season the Cougars have outplayed the division leader, but the Fusion have stolen a win in the final minutes of the game.
“It’s hard not to win when we’ve played so well,” senior midfielder BJ Pugmire said. “But it’s something we need to learn from and realize we need to finish games out and not let down at the end.”
Saturday night’s game had a much brighter outcome. Although the Cougars said the team didn’t play as well as they would have liked, they were able to beat the Legends 1-0.
“The game was pretty ugly,” Pugmire said. “But we were able to get the three points, which was the most important thing.”
In the 66th minute, BYU forward Garrett Losee drew a foul in the penalty area that resulted in Pugmire scoring the game’s only goal off a penalty kick. It was his fourth penalty kick goal of the season.
Shortly after Pugmire’s goal, the game took a turn for the worse. Two Los Angeles players were thrown out of the game because of violent behavior. Legends forward Victor Raygoza punched BYU defender Ethan Meyer in the face and in about the 78th minute Los Angeles midfielder Abdou Liassou hit Cougar midfielder Colby Bauer.
The loss of two opposing players helped BYU hold on for the shutout win, the team’s third victory of the season.
“Tonight’s game was a good way to finish our last travel as a team,” Lartey said, “and a good way to leave California.”
After a long, hard-fought weekend in California, BYU will return to Provo to continue running soccer camps for local youth.
“We had a great effort on a back-to-back game,” Watkins said. “I’m impressed with how hard we play every game.”
The Cougars have moved up to fifth place in the division standings and have only two games left. BYU will play in Ogden on Saturday before coming back to Provo to play its last game of the season July 21 against the L.A. Blues 23.