Special to the Herald
The Clinton Herald
---- — MONTGOMERY, Ala. – In the first two games of the 2013 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Men’s Soccer National Championship, the Ashford University men’s soccer team gave its coaches and fans plenty of thrills and heart-stopping moments in a pair of double-overtime wins.
Their national quarterfinal match was exciting, too, but with much less drama.
Freshman Daniel Dreier exploded for two goals and two assists for the tournament’s fourth-seeded Saints in a dominant 5-1 win over the fifth-seeded Red Storm of the University of Rio Grande (Ohio).
Senior Lucas Almeida, junior Javier Ramirez and freshman Johannes Langhans added goals, and freshman Tim Krautheim chipped in with a pair of assists as the Saints improve to 16-4-1 and advanced to the national semifinals for the first time in program history.
“We did what we do well and (stuck) with our counter-attack game plan,” coach Richard Markham said. “We were able to really use our speed to our advantage, and it got under their skin and caused them to take a red card. It was a great effort all around today. Our goaltending and our defense kept them off the scoreboard and we just clicked from the opening whistle.”
Dreier opened the scoring for Ashford in the 14th minute, taking a loose ball down the left side and past the Red Storm defense before firing a shot past goalkeeper Jon Dodson for his team-leading 16th goal.
That marker moved the Wellendorf, Germany, native into a tie with Krautheim for the single-season record for goals in a year and gave Dreier the program record for most points (38) in a season.
The Red Storm began to apply pressure shortly after the opening goal, knotting the game at 1-1 in the 18th minute on a goal by Pau Delgado Rodriguez, his 17th of the year.
But the Ashford defense held its ground during the push by the nation’s top offensive team, led by a trio of huge saves from Chris Higgins of Glasgow, Scotland, to keep the game tied.
AU’s counter attack capitalized in the 25th minute, when Krautheim’s centering pass found the right foot of Almeida, who tapped home the go-ahead goal.
“At this level you need to have someone to make the saves,” Markham said. “Chris did that for us today. They are ranked second in the nation for a reason, because they know how to find the net. Chris was huge for us multiple times and it woke up our defense to lock it down, and our offense fed off his play as well.”
The score remained 2-1 until halftime. A red card disqualified Rio Grande’s Luiz Filho in the 34th minute, forcing the Red Storm to play with 10 players for the rest of the game. Filho is currently leading the nation in both goals (28) and points (59).
AU wasted no time blowing the game wide open in the second half, when Ramirez netted his 11th goal of the year off a feed from Dreier in the 48th minute.
Dreier added his second goal on a pass from Krautheim in the 62nd minute, passing his teammate for the most single-season goals in program history with his 17th tally.
Three minutes later, Langhans netted his second goal of the year, taking a pass from Dreier and banking it in off the far post to cap the scoring.
Higgins set a career high with seven stops to improve to 5-0 on the year as AU was outshot 20-10 in the game. The Ashford offense managed only five shots on goal, but all five found a way past Dodson at the other end.
Ashford will face Martin Methodist, the 16th seed, in the semifinals at noon Friday. Martin Methodist beat sixth-seeded Belhaven (Miss.) 2-1 on Wednesday.