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Four Straight NWC Road Games for Men's Soccer

Jordan Downing (15)
Jordan Downing (15)

COMING UP: Coming off of a solid Northwest Conference opening weekend that saw a pair of shutout victories, Pacific Lutheran now heads to Oregon for the initial two of four consecutive NWC road contests. The Lutes play at Linfield in McMinnville, Ore., on Saturday and at Willamette in Salem, Ore., on Sunday with both contests scheduled to kick off at 2:30 p.m.

ANOTHER ROAD TRIP: After this weekend's trip to Oregon, the Lutes will head east across the mountains to face two of the NWC's best in the Whits - Whitworth on Sept. 29 and Whitman on Sept. 30 - to conclude a string of four consecutive NWC road games. Including those two contests, the Lutes will have played nine of their first 11 matches away from their home field.

CURRENT STANDINGS AND RANKINGS: Pacific Lutheran currently is tied with Whitworth and Puget Sound atop the Northwest Conference standings, all three teams with 2-0 records following conference openers last weekend. Of that trio, only PLU is not ranked in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Division III Top 25. Whitworth, with a 5-0-1 overall record, is ranked 11th national and second in the NSCAA West Region poll. Puget Sound, 5-1-1, is 24th in the nation and third in the region. Pacific Lutheran, with a 3-3-1 overall record, is ranked ninth in the West Region.

PRESEASON POLL: Conference coaches picked Pacific Lutheran to successfully defend the title it won in 2011, but the voting was hardly lopsided in PLU's favor. The Lutes picked up five first-place voters and 50 points, followed by Whitworth (which was 2011 co-champion with PLU) with two first-place votes and 45 points, and then Puget Sound with one first-place vote and 39 points. Whitman finished fourth in the poll followed by Willamette, Pacific, Linfield and George Fox.

ABOUT LINFIELD: Under the direction of first-year head coach Chuck Bechtol, the Wildcats are 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the conference. Last weekend, the 'Cats took a 2-1 upset win at Whitman after losing a 2-0 decision to Whitworth. Jake Baker and Danny Snelgrow both have a pair of goals to lead the Wildcats in that category, while Scott Goodman has a 2.0 goals against average while playing the majority of the minutes in goal. Linfield has been out-scored, 11-7, in its first five matches. Pacific Lutheran has a 28-19-1 lead in the all-time series with Linfield, including a recent run of nine wins in the past 10 matches. The Lutes handled the 'Cats twice last year, taking a 4-0 win at home and an 8-0 victory in McMinnville. It is, however, a new day and new program at Linfield, so expect much closer matches.

ABOUT WILLAMETTE: PLU has a 32-16-6 all-time series lead over Willamette, with wins in 13 of the past 14 meetings. That one Willamette win came last year when the Bearcats came to Parkland and handing the Lutes a stunning 2-1 defeat. That was one of only two losses suffered by 2011 NWC champion Pacific Lutheran. Willamette, which hosts Puget Sound on Saturday at the same time that PLU plays at Linfield, enters the weekend with a 3-3-1 overall record, including a 0-1-1 mark in the conference. Last weekend, the Bearcats battled Whitman to a 0-0 double overtime draw and then pushed Whitworth to the end before losing 1-0 on an 84th minute goal. Under second-year head coach Lloyd Fobi, Willamette has been scoring in bunches with 14 goals in its first seven matches. Yazan Yishmeh has three goals and two assists for eight points, Erik Kaufman three goals and one assist for seven points, and Adan Vazquez two goals and three assists for seven points. Trevor Jensen ranks first among all NWC players with four assists this season. Goalkeeper Brayden Calder has played the majority of the minutes betweent he pipes for Willamette and has a 3-2 record and a 1.-3 goals against average.

CONFERENCE LEADERS: Pacific Lutheran freshman forward Emmanuel Amarh is tied with Whitworth's Leland Matthaeus atop the Northwest Conference leaderboard with four goals and nine points. Other highly ranked Lutes include junior forward Derek Johnson, second with 20 shots, and junior keeper Joe Rayburn, third with a 1.00 goals against average.

WEEKEND RECAP: Pacific Lutheran opened defense of its conference men's soccer title last weekend with a pair of home field shutouts. On Saturday the Lutes opened with a 5-0 win over George Fox, and a day later they took the measure of Pacific, 2-0. "It was good to get the two wins but it was also good to see the growth and improvement in the team over the week," PLU head coach John Yorke said. "I believe that our difficult preseason will serve us well as we continue into NWC play."

PLU 5, GEORGE FOX 0: After starting slowly, the Lutes scored four goals over a period of 18 1/2 minutes in the middle of the first half. Brenden Cohen scored the game's first goal and his first of the season at 18:57, blasting a shot from 18 yards on the right and into the far side netting. The assist went to Derek Johnson. Johnson got the next goal, his third this season, following up his own blocked shot and knocking the ball into the empty net at the 25:16 mark. Just 11 seconds later the Lutes had their third goal when Emmanuel Amarh took a pass from Johnson and scored past George Fox keeper Elliott Davis, who was suddenly under siege by the PLU offense. The goal was Amarh's third of the season, and he added his fourth at 31:32, finishing off Tyler Bennett's pass from the right wing. The game's final goal came at 54:22 when Giancarlo Santoro notched his second goal of the season from about six yards out. After that, PLU head coach John Yorke emptied his bench with a total of 27 different Lutes seeing action. The shot totals were close with PLU holding a 19-15 advantage, and the Lutes also enjoyed an 8-7 lead in shots in goal. A trio of PLU keepers were up to the task against the Bruins, combining on a shutout. Joe Rayburn made two saves and picked up the victory while playing all of the first half. Mike Arguello and Sam Watkins shared time in the second half, Arguello finishing with one save and Watkins getting four in the final 19:25 of the contest. "It was a good win to start the NWC season," Coach Yorke said. "There were some very nice goals and multiple chances. I was very happy with our energy and the way we attacked. I thought we fouled a bit too much in the wrong areas of the field and that we could have been a bit better in our defensive shape but overall it was a good performance."

PLU 2, PACIFIC 0: PLU notched its second consecutive conference shutout with Joe Rayburn making four saves while playing all 90 minutes. The Lutes limited Pacific to a total of just seven shots, including two in the opening half. Freshman forward Jordan Downing scored his first goal as a collegian, and the only goal that the Lutes would need, when he kicked the ball into the back of the net on a goal mouth scramble at the 36:32 mark. PLU had earned a free kick outside the top of the box and Shane Gutierrez cracked a shot off the corner of the crossbar. The ball deflected back down and, after a couple of moments, Downing got his foot to the ball and gave his team the lead. PLU's insurance goal at 55:03 involved the dribbling and passing skills of Emmanuel Amarh and a cracker of a finish by Brenden Cohen. Amarh, a freshman forward from Norway, beat his defender down the left wing, rounded the corner and charged at goal before passing through the box to Cohen on the far post. The senior midfielder, who scored on an 18-yard drive against George Fox on Saturday, blasted his shot past Pacific keeper Michael Summers and into the net. PLU had a difficult time getting the ball past Summers, who finished the game with 10 saves. "We were concerned with the energy level on Sunday being the second game of the weekend and with the temperature above 80 degrees," Coach Yorke said. "Our worries were eased early as our guys came out with big energy and sharp play. We created many chances in the game and with some better quality in our finishing the score could have been bigger.  I was very pleased with our defensive performance as well for most of the game."

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