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Matadors start tough stretch of games with win over Artichokes
Arizona Western men's soccer coach Kenny Dale was grinning from ear to ear Saturday evening.
With good reason, he watched his Matadors take a step forward and put together a complete game. And it couldn't have come at a better time.
Fighting for its playoff life, AWC downed a physical Scottsdale Community College squad 3-1 at home.
"This is the time. This is the season for being competitive and getting results and I'm glad we were able to come through," Dale said. "It was tough and all of the games are that way. There are no easy games."
The Matadors (8-5-1 overall, 6-5-1 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) received a huge lift from sophomore goalkeeper Manuel Lugo and balanced scoring as three different players netted goals.
"We feel very good about the win," Dale said. "Manuel Lugo was dynamite, dynamite. The only goal he gave up was one that wasn't really his fault. He was outstanding. The player of the game without question."
Lugo was rarely tested due to the stellar harassing AWC defense in the first half. He finished with only four saves - all in the second half - but all four were well "dynamite."
The first two came with the Matadors clinging to a 1-0 advantage early in the second half.
Lugo opened the half with a diving save of Ryan Farrell's rocket from the top of the goalie box.
After a cross found an all alone Artichokes forward Brett Waters deep in the box, Lugo came up with a perfectly timed kick save.
Soon after, Vinny Muscarella while lying on his back pushed the Matadors lead to 2-0 by redirecting a cross from Wally Vasquez.
Lugo's final two saves came midway through the second half after Scottsdale (4-6-2, 4-6-2 ACCAC) had closed the gap to 2-1. He punched the ball out of danger twice - the second over the crossbar - on consecutive Artichokes' shots to preserve the lead.
AWC's Belo Alhassan put the game away with a header on an assist from Abdel Becerra with 10 minutes to go.
Paris Figueroa started the scoring for the Matadors by depositing a loose ball into the back of the net late in the first half.
AWC came into the game tied for fourth in conference with two other teams, while Scottsdale was sixth.
AWC travels to top-ranked and conference leader Yavapai Community College on Wednesday.
"Our league is very, very tight and these are the types of games we have to be on top of," Dale said.