SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – For the second time in as many matches, Jake Baker converted a late-game penalty kick as the Wildcats pulled out a 2-1 preseason victory over the Poets Saturday afternoon at Whittier College.
Veteran Danny Snelgrow also scored for the second consecutive game for the ‘Cats, who equaled their win total from all of the 2011 season. While the Wildcats were outshot overall 21-18, Linfield put the ball away when it counted and benefitted from solid defense and goalkeeping.
The teams traded off shots early on, with Linfield (2-0) attempting to build off of its momentum from its previous win over Oregon Tech.
Snelgrow broke the deadlock in the 24th minute with a goal set up by Tyler Repic to give Linfield the early advantage.
A key save from Poets’ keeper David Diaz in the 28th minute prevented the ‘Cats from pulling away.
On the defensive side of the ball, Wildcat keeper Scott Goodman saved both of Whittier’s first-half shots on target.
Whittier (0-3) outshot Linfield in the first half 10-9 and committed only six fouls to the Wildcats’ eight. The Poets also won the only corner kick of the first half, as neither defense was put under consistent heavy pressure.
The Wildcats opened the second half with a new-look lineup: Four new starters, including a new goalkeeper.
Seeing his first action of the year, netminder Grant Loriaux was pressured right away, facing an immediate corner kick and making two saves in a three-minute span shortly after the break.
The Wildcats appeared to take advantage offensively, winning four corner kicks in less than three minutes’ time. Linfield could not take advantage of the scoring opportunities, however, and Whittier countered with a goal from Srdan Jovanovic.
Both teams picked up the pace after the game-tying strike, and another save from Loriaux in the 77th minute kept the game even for the time being. After making three substitutions, the Wildcats kicked off a string of shots and corner kicks that ended with a penalty kick after a foul inside Whittier’s 18-yard box. Baker calmly tucked the ball into the net and pushed Linfield ahead 2-1.
After a corner kick by the Poets in the 88th minute, Linfield shut the door for good and held off Whittier through the closing minutes. A final shot from Domenico Del Prete was blocked, and Whittier posed no real threat after that.
'CAT SCRATCH: Linfield starts the season with consecutive wins for the first time since 2007...the Wildcats benefit from a late-game penalty kick for the second consecutive game, winning both 2-1...the ‘Cats used 20 out of 24 players in Saturday’s victory.
AHEAD: Linfield takes on UC-Santa Cruz Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. in Santa Cruz, Calif.