McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Linfield is out to a winning start in men’s soccer for the second consecutive year under head coach Chuck Bechtol after blanking Howard Payne 2-0 Saturday night at the Linfield soccer field.
Jake Baker and Nicholas Autencio scored one goal apiece for the Wildcats (1-0), who outshot the Yellow Jackets (2-0) by a wide 18-3 margin.
As it did Friday night in an exhibition match against Bellevue, Linfield got on the board quickly in the first half and never looked back. Domenico Del Prete and Baker made the connection, with Del Prete delivering a cross from the left side for an easy finish at the net just 12 minutes into the match.
With about 25 minutes to play in the opening period, the ‘Cats came brutally close to doubling their lead. A cross from the right to left side of the field found no one, but Del Prete gathered the ball along the end line and served it to the far post for Eric Conte. The freshman’s header missed wide, however, much to the dismay of the Wildcat faithful.
Linfield looked to be in serious trouble of surrendering its lead later in the first half, but Jorge Rodriguez bailed out his defense with some impressive plays between the posts. First, Howard Payne forward Shay Pate looked to cash in on a one-on-one opportunity by lifting a shot over Rodriguez, who had charged out of the box and hit the grass to break up the play. Unfortunately for the Yellow Jackets, the Linfield keeper got his hand on the ball just enough to divert Pate’s shot up and over the crossbar.
Tyler Repic pushed upfield after the Wildcats cleared the ensuing corner, but was stymied by HPU goalie Allan Chehadi.
The Yellow Jackets challenged again, forcing Rodriguez to leap to punch out a shot attempt. Howard Payne won another corner kick, its second of the match, but Rodriguez denied that play, too.
Throughout the second half, Linfield continued to pepper Chehadi with shots on goal. Howard Payne’s keeper made a total of five saves on the evening while allowing both goals.
Baker nearly doubled his tally in the 72nd minute, except his header hit the left post and bounced back into play. Brian DeGrandmont (Sr., Portland, Ore.) gathered the rebound and sent another ball toward the goal, where Chehadi made the stop.
The Wildcats kept the pressure on, and two minutes later Autencio, a McMinnville native, added the insurance goal with a shot that traveled the full length of the goal, left to right, into the far corner.
AHEAD: Linfield heads south for a pair of nonconference matches against Oregon Tech and Walla Walla Sept. 6 and 7. Both matches are to be played in Klamath Falls, at 5 and 8 p.m., respectively.