HOUSTON, Texas  --  A solid effort that produced a 1-0 lead after sixty minutes of play ended in a 4-1 setback for Southwestern Assemblies of God University men’s soccer team on Friday.

 

The University of St. Thomas, who fielded an improved team according to Lions Head Coach Clem Oancea, took advantage of two turnovers by the defense to take a 2-1 lead with 17 minutes remaining.

A defensive foul at the edge of the box, 18 yards out, led to the Celts icing the game, 3-1, in the 85th minute. They tacked on another three minutes later to close the scoring.

The final margin was deceiving. SAGU had a number of scoring chances to go along with six cornerkicks, but found the Celts resistance too much. Goalie Jason Taffet, a 6’5 junior, held the Lions scoreless over the final 41 minutes.

St. Thomas improved their lead in the young series to 3-0, all of them come-from-behind triumphs in the closing stages of the game.

The season opener for both teams was played at Houston’s Amateur Sports Park, the training home of the Houston Dynamo.

After a scoreless first half, the Lions drew first blood with a goal just four minutes into the second stanza. A pair of sophomores produced the game’s first score.

Following a goal kick on one end, the Purple Pride maintained possession at midfield. Veteran playmaker Jonathan Ramos (Tegucigalpa, Honduras / Garringer HS) got in behind the Celts back line along the right side.

Lee Kounas (5) supplies 1-0 second half lead. Photo by Moving Pictures.

 

The quick strike was followed with a deftly placed pass in the box to midfielder Lee Kounas (Oak Cliff, Tx / Townview HS). He one-timed a low blast past Taffet inside the right post.

“It was a great combination play,” said Co-Captain Cesar Galvan (Allen, Tx / Lovejoy HS).

Coach Oancea called the scoring play “brilliant.”

After a first half in which the Lions thwarted St. Thomas, allowing them only seven shots, all from long distances that Galvan easily snared, SAGU upped their play.

“It was a great start from our guys. I was very pleased with the possession we had in the first half.  At intermission I told them how proud I was of their performance,” recalled Oancea. “We made a few adjustments and they paid off.”

“The goal came from a beautiful combination on the right side of the field,” he said. “It unfolded in amazing fashion. The quick movement of Joel put him in position ahead of their defense. He found Lee inside for the goal.”

The goal could’ve given SAGU a solid 2-0 lead after a prior miss of a golden chance.

Kounas (KOO-nahs) was second on the team in scoring in 2012 with 17 points (5 goals, 7 assists). He looks to help fill the void with the graduation of Danny Martinez (Houston, Tx / Cy-Creek HS), the club’s chief scoring threat.

“Our guys were very organized and discipline in our game and we kept the ball most of the entire first half,” the Romanian-born coach added. “They couldn't break our back-line and had to look for shots from a distance.”

The Lions field a young starting line-up; six are freshmen or sophomores, four juniors and a lone senior in Galvan, the goalie. Meshing the incoming players and developing cohesion is the goal of the early season games.

Even after late mistakes cost them a shot at a road win, Oancea (WAHN-cha) was very upbeat. He found many positives to take from the game.

“We played very well, very organized,” he summed up. “We kept the ball. We are still trying to move pieces around and adjust to the players. I believe we are handling the changes well.” 

Galvan agrees. “Every team hates to lose. But the attitude after the game wasn't of let down but of self-reflection.”

“We really looked at each other and said, ‘hey it's our first game.’ This team has a positive attitude. Our play in the middle really helped us.”

 

“We have to play our game and stay focused from the first minute until the 90th minute,” Oancea continued. “Our possession game was beautiful and will get better as we play more games.”

He praised the St. Thomas team, who added a number of international players since last fall. “It was great starting the season against a team of this caliber,” he said. “That was the reason for playing them early, so we can evaluate our guys against a good opponent.”

As for the effects of the high temps and high humidity, the coach said the Lions did not tire. “Our fitness level if very good,” he pointed out. SAGU did not have to make change due to fatigue. Only two substitutes entered the action, both as tactical adjustments.

“This is the game we love. Just because you play the best soccer,” explained Oancea, “doesn’t mean you always end on top. This beautiful game is all about precision and focus. A fraction of a second is often the difference between a win and a loss. It was in this game.”

“The entire team, as one unit, played a great game. I think Danny Castro (Dallas, Tx / Skyline HS) and Johnny Ramirez (Red Oak, Tx / Red Oak HS) along with the back four (defenders) played a solid game.”

Oancea found the team meal after the game as rewarding as their productive play. While dining at a local Chili’s they encountered two waitresses who were in need of ministry. A moment of prayer and encouragement for both was gratifying.

“Winning is not always counted in goals scored, but in fulfilling God’s purpose in each day. Life is about highs and lows, and going through them with His help.”

“Tonight our guys learned lessons and God was in the center of both of them. There is no greater place to be than by His side at the right place and at the right time. Our guys are winners in my book, no matter what.”

The hope of having a few more players getting cleared by the NAIA eligibility center will aid the team.

SAGU returns to action later next week, playing back-to-back games in Kansas on Thursday and Friday. They will face Southwestern College on August 29 before taking on Sterling College the following afternoon.

Galvan said he believes his teammates will work this week to avoid making the same mistakes again.

“I feel like the team is going to train next week to improve, to learn and to be coached. We will be ready for Kansas. We hope to come back with victories. Our attitude is positive and our heads are high.”

Contact: Mark “Link” Warde, SAGU Sports Information Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 469-658-2847.

Click here for the Box Score.

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