SALEM, Ore. - Derek Johnson scored two goals in the final 11 minutes of the match as Pacific Lutheran rallied past Willamette, 2-1, in a Northwest Conference men's soccer match played here Sunday afternoon.
With the victory, the Lutes improve to 5-3-1 overall and, more importantly, to 4-0-0 in the conference. That puts defending co-champion PLU in a three-way tie atop the league table with other 2011 co-champion, Whitworth, and Puget Sound.
This coming weekend, both PLU and Puget Sound travel across the state to play against Whitworth and another NWC title contender, Whitman. The Lutes face Whitworth on Saturday and Whitman on Sunday, while Puget Sound has the reverse schedule.
In today's match, the host Bearcats opened the scoring at 11:13 when Tyler Yates notched his second goal of the campaign, beating PLU keeper Joe Rayburn from about eight yards out. Trevor Jensen started the play with a pass to Erik Kaufman, who sent the ball to Yates for the finish.
That goal held up for most of the match, but Pacific Lutheran's second half siege of Willamette's defense, and keeper Brayden Calder, finally paid off at 79:04 when Tyler Bennett passed to Johnson, who netted his fourth goal of the season.
The Lutes pressed for the go-ahead goal and it came at 85:54 when Emmanuel Amarh sent a ball to Johnson, who gave his team the lead.
"We were able to come out in the second half and move the ball a lot better," Johnson said. "I've waited two years to get that chance to be in a clutch situation to put us ahead like that, so it felt great. Emmanuel did a ton of work, G (Giancarlo Santoro) did a ton of work up there, and we were just able to find it."
The goals were reward for a second half that saw Pacific Lutheran out-shoot Willamette, 8-2, on the way to a 15-8 advantage for the game.
"We felt like once we got that first one that the second one would come because we were putting a lot of pressure on them in the second half," PLU head coach John Yorke said.
After Johnson's second goal the Bearcats had one more effort on a corner kick, but Yazan Hishmeh's shot was blocked by the defense. Less than a minute later Calder's save denied Johnson of a hat trick.
Calder finished with seven saves, and his defense cleared a Brendan Cohen header off the line, as PLU put nine of its 15 shot attempts on frame. Another effort by Shane Gutierrez in between the two PLU goals hit off the Willamette crossbar. Rayburn finished with two saves for Pacific Lutheran, which also enjoyed a 9-6 advantage in corner kicks.
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