Defending National Champs defeat Mountain Lions
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Mountain Lions were able to slow, but not stop the defending national champion Fort Lewis Skyhawks' high-octane offense as the Skyhawks won 3-0 Sunday afternoon at Mountain Lions Field.
The Mountain Lions opened the game with an new lineup, starting just one forward, Bryan Stoeber and five midfielders.
The single forward lineup is common in international play. The idea is for the forward, in this case Stoeber, to post up with his back to the goal and play diagonal balls to the attacking midfielders. The tactic has the added benefit of disguising where the attack will come from.
The lineup proved effective for the first 20 minutes of the game as the Mountain Lions were able to create scoring opportunities but were unable to capitalize.
The Skyhawks, who are ranked fifth nationally and are the defending national champion, were led by John Cunliffe who finished the game with a hat trick.
In the 28th minute, Mountain Lion defender Tristan Robinson went up with Cunliffe for the ball inside the Mountain Lion's penalty box. Robinson cleared the ball with a header but came down on Cunliffe. The Skyhawks were awarded a penalty kick, which Cunliffe buried.
After scoring their first goal, the Skyhawks took control of the game and moved the ball like clockwork and made it especially hard on the lone forward, Stoeber, to pressure the ball.
"It was very different for me today being the only guy up top since they play four in the back," said Stoeber. "Sometimes when we would get the ball up, it would be one-on-four and when you're playing the best team in the nation it can be pretty intimidating."
With the Mountain Lions playing with only one forward the Skyhawks were able to control and ball and the game.
One minute and 44 seconds into the second half Cunliffe scored again. Tom Settle slotted a through ball behind the Mountain Lion defense and right to the feet of Cunliffe. The senior from Edgworth, England was able to slide the ball past goalkeeper James Bjorklund with relative ease.
Being down two goals the Mountain Lions were forced to push more players up to increase their attack. This created a more vulnerable defense for the Skyhawks to attack.
"You can't win a game down 2-0 so we had to push people forward," said Bjorklund. "And they started getting more through balls and better counters."
The Mountain Lions were able to hold off the Skyhawk attack and create one of their own. In the last 15 minutes of the match the Mountain Lions had the ball in the Skyhawk's end of the field much of the time.
However, in the 88th minute the potent Skyhawk counter-attack gave Cunliffe his third goal of the game, completing the hat trick.
The Mountain Lions (3-5, 1-3 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) were outshot 19-4 and lost their fourth consecutive game.
"I felt really busy tonight," said Bjorklund who finished with a career-high six saves. "But it was a good experience because it's not everyday you get to say you played the best team in the nation."
For the Skyhawks (6-0, 4-0 RMAC) the win was their fifth shutout of the season.
The Mountain Lions will face Metro State this Friday and Regis on Sunday. Both games will be on the road for the Mountain Lions.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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