LOS ANGELES – Freshman Connor Freeman (Mercer Island, Wash.) scored a spectacular golden goal with about 1 minute left in the first overtime to give the Occidental College men's soccer team a thrilling 5-4 win against Whittier College on Saturday night at Jack Kemp Stadium.
With about two minutes left in the overtime period, Alessandro Carotenuto (Scottsdale, Ariz.) received a pass from Christian Buchmann (Singapore) off a Poets goal kick. Carotenuto then played a perfect floating through ball to Freeman who was flying down the left side. Freeman got a one-on-one opportunity against Whittier goalkeeper David Diaz and finessed a perfect shot just inside the far post going against the momentum of his own body to give the Tigers (6-6, 5-6, SCIAC) the dramatic victory.
The goal was the first of Freeman's collegiate career.
For a while, it looked as if tonight's game was going to be a repeat of Wednesday's tilt at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, when Oxy got off to an early lead only to lose momentum in the second half.
Minutes after Jack Day (London, England) headed in a driven cross from Marcus Brandford (Seattle) to tie the game at 3-3 in the 52nd minute, Whittier's Dylan Fortin pushed across his attempt past Oxy's Ian Agrimis (Portland, Ore.) to give the Poets a 4-3 lead.
It seemed as if Fortin's goal would prove to be the decisive one until Oxy drew a foul on the right side about 25 yards out with less than a minute left in the game. With everybody—including Oxy goalkeeper Agrimis—packed into the penalty box, Carotenuto played in a free kick that somehow found Will Pottenger (Brandford, Conn.) who put it into the back of the net for the equalizer with 27.1 seconds remaining.
"We stepped up at important moments," said Occidental head coach Rod Lafaurie. "There's a lot of things on our board that we have to correct, but I'm glad we found a way to make the winning play at the most important moment."
The Tigers got off to a blistering start. In the 19th minute, Brandford and Day played a clever give-and-go for the first goal of the game. Brandford, cutting in from the right flank, dished it off to Day who then back-heeled it back to the winger who placed it into the lower left corner of the net.
Just two minutes later, Reid Sakamoto (Honolulu) played a perfect pass from deep in his own territory to streaking Ben Murray (Sandpoint, Idaho) who cut past Diaz, who came off the line, and put it into the back of the net to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead.
However, the Poets reeled off three unanswered goals to put the Tigers in a hole.
"I'm proud of my guys for having kept fighting," Lafaurie said. "It was a great team effort. There were so many things in the game and I don't think I can talk about all of them."
The victory brings the Tigers within three points of the Poets, who currently hold the fourth and final spot for SCIAC playoffs. With five conference matches remaining, the Tigers will look to make a late season push for the playoffs.
Oxy returns to action against Caltech on Wednesday at Lower Field at 4 p.m.